Mange is nothing to be taken lightly. It is defined as “a skin disease of mammals caused by parasitic mites and occasionally communicable to humans. It typically causes severe itching, hair loss and the formation of scabs and lesions.”
Sarcoptic mange is a form of mange that is referred to as a highly contagious skin disease. It is so called because this type of mange is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite.
At CROW, a juvenile northern raccoon was admitted to the clinic after it was found in a supermarket parking lot in Fort Myers and suspected to have mange. The parasitic infection caused the raccoon to experience matted fur, hair loss and bacterial skin infection. Mange can also leave the infected thin and dehydrated.
“Animals become infected with mange after direct contact with another animal with mange or if a mite survives long enough in the environment to travel onto a new host,” said Dr. Kyle Abbott, CROW veterinary intern. “Sarcoptes mites, however, are not long-lived off their hosts.”
CROW medical staff confirmed the raccoon was indeed suffering from severe sarcoptic mange by examining a skin scraping under a microscope that showed live Sarcoptes. The patient was definitely infected by the disease.
“This case of Sarcoptic mange was a very severe one in that the lesions that affected the young raccoon covered the majority of the body. The lesions most commonly present are hair loss and excessive crusting of the skin,” said Dr. Abbott. “Mange refers to any disease where mites cause obvious defects in the skin. Sarcoptic mange is common and found around the globe.”
Since Sarcoptic mange is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be spread from animals to humans, the raccoon was taken to a special, isolated quarantine room in the hospital to prevent the spread to other patients. CROW medical staff used extra protection while providing the raccoon with antiparasitic and antibiotic medication to treat the mange, along with nutritional and supportive care.
“For protection against this zoonotic disease, staff wears gowns and gloves when working with the raccoon,” said Dr. Abbott. “The raccoon is also housed in a separate room from other patients. This room contains a separate air system from the rest of the hospital which helps prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The raccoon has been treated with two different drugs in the same class to kill the mite. One is called Ivermectin and is an injectable medication, and the other is selamectin, commonly known as Revolution, and is a topical medication. Both are used to ensure the mites are killed and because it was uncertain if this raccoon could effectively absorb either medication through its compromised skin.”
Now that the young raccoon has faced the main part of the medical procedure, it is more of a waiting game to see how it responds.
“Once the patient is able to clear the crusted skin lesions, we will test the skin again for live mites,” said Dr. Abbott. “If there are none, then the patient will be cleared to move to an outside enclosure where it will continue its rehabilitation until it is ready for release.”
After a few more days of getting treatment, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the patient. “This raccoon has done well with treatment and is eating well on its own,” said Dr. Abbott. “Within a few weeks, it should be ready for release.”
CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.