The only way to tell for sure is to have him examined by a veterinarian. Around the ears and eyes is commonly the first place for hair loss to occur in cases of mange, and a dog doesn't have to have been in contact with other dogs to get mange. The mites that cause mange live on all dogs at all times, but sometimes if the dog is ill or old or stressed over something, the mites start to multiply out of control and that's when problems start. A skin scraping that the vet will look at under a microscope will tell whether or not there are mange mites (either sarcoptic or demodectic) present.
Are there any lesions present where the hair is missing? Anything red or crusty looking? Or is it just missing hair?
I have to agree with Ghilly. Mange is a likely culprit. You don't want to let it go undiagnosed as secondary bacterial infections can get started. That's why Ghilly asked about lesions or red, crusty looking skin.
Also, if the mange mites are of the sarcoptic variety (scabies), they can infest humans. EEK! :-)
After the hairloss, the bald patches have like a crusty dry skin present. He hasn't been ill and I dont think stressed over anything as he's a very active loved family dog. You know he actually saved our lives once by alerting us of a fire in the house :) We love him dearly ....
I think you're right, it does sound like the Mange. What do you suggest would be the best form of treatment if it were to be the Mange?
Mange really needs to be treated by a vet. It is not something that you can buy an over-the-counter treatment for at a pet store. Back in the "old days" circa 1990 when we rescued a chronic mange puppy, the only answer was dipping with mitaban dip. Started out every two weeks and gradually tapered for four years until his immune system could combat the mites.
These days, I believe the preferred treatment is ivermectin, which is an oral remedy but still takes time. I'm hoping Ghilly will chime in here because she is more knowledgeable about this than I am. If the dog has any other medical issues that need to be considered, that may determine the course of treatment.
It sounds like your dog already has a bit of a staph infection started and probably needs a course of oral antibiotics as well as mange treatment. I know finances are tight for everyone these days, but you really need to take your dog to a vet. Believe it or not, mange infestation along with a staph skin infection can eventually be fatal. It's cheaper to get it treated sooner rather than later.
How cool that your dog saved you from a fire!! Can you tell us more about that episode? What a fabulous story - and dog! :-)
Upon thinking about it some more, crustiness where there is hair loss is also found when ringworm (which is a fungal infection and not a worm, as is commonly thought sometimes) is present, so in order to determine what is actually going on here, a vet visit is going to be the only way. A skin scraping that is put on a slide and examined under a microscope will reveal mites if it is mange, and using a Woods Lamp in a darkened room will cause ringworm fungus to glow a bright, apple green, so both tests are something that can be done within minutes at the vet's office.
If it is ringworm, antifungals will be necessary. Topical antifungals work, but you have to be diligent about applying them because the pets will do everything in their power to remove them. Actually, with the hair loss being on the head and face, it should be easier than normal to get the dog to leave it alone because he can't lick his own ears and eyes, and dogs don't tend to be fastidious groomers like cats are, licking their paws and cleaning their faces and ears. Antifungals that are taken internally are most often easier to deal with, but they are not without their risks. Griseofulvin is the antifungal that kills ringworm, and when taken internally, it can adversely affect the liver, over the course of the treatment, so you've got to watch the pet to make sure nothing goes wrong in that department. Liver damage is most often reversible, but you don't want it to start in the first place if you can help it, so keep a close eye out, especially around the dogs mucus membranes, around his eyes, inside of his ears, and on his belly, for yellowing of the skin. This yellowing (ictarus) is a sign of liver problems and is also called jaundice.
If mange is the culprit, as jaybay has already said, ivermectin is the treatment of choice. Like with griselfulvin, though, ivermectin is not without its risks, and, depending upon what breed or breeds make up the dog's genotype, ivermectin can be extremely dangerous to use on them. The dogs that ivermectin can be dangerous for are collies, and any breeds that were developed by mixing collies with other dogs. Australian shepherds, border collies, shelties, and any mixed breeds that have these dogs in their genotype are susceptible to ivermectin toxicity. Without going into confusing specifics, Ivermectin is able to cross the blood brain barrier in collies and collie crosses, which causes Ivermectin toxicity. Since collies almost all have white feet, vets used to have an adage they went by that said "white feet, don't treat". This is why it is not advisable to use HeartGuard heartworm medication for collies, but to use Interceptor instead. HOWEVER, a mange situation is a double edged sword, because unlike ringworm, which, although it makes the animal miserably itchy, will usually burn itself out after a certain length of time (I THINK it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 months), mange will not only NOT burn itself out, if left untreated it WILL eventually kill the dog, if not by completely destroying the dog's immune system, but the dog will have no quality of life and will have to be euthanized. So in the face of mange, unfortunately treatment is NECESSARY. People can also contract mange from dogs, so be careful handling the dog and wash your hands extremely well after any contact with the dog until you get to the vet and find out what's going on, and especially if you find out from the vet that it IS mange. Come to think of it, if it's ringworm you want to do the same thing, because people can get that as well, I HAVE gotten it from a kitten that I pulled from a shelter 18 years ago, and it itches so badly I was ready to jump off a cliff to get away from it!! Holy socks did that stuff itch!!! LOL
I hope I have answered your questions. If there's anything that's not clear, post back and I'll do my best to explain it.
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