Scabies from animals

Physiological types of the human itch mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, are found on a wide variety of mammals, with which we often come into contact.

Pseudo-scabies
Itch mites from animals may, when they given the opportunity, taste the skin of the humans with which the infected animal is in contact. However, they cannot settle in the skin, and consequently pseudo-scabies disappear shortly after the actual host animal has been treated or when contact with the animal stops.

The diagnosis is difficult to make. You might see small crusty papules of the skin – not actual burrows. Itching is the most prominent symptom and is often what makes people seek medical advice. Generally, from the papules’ location on the body, you may suspect that they are caused by contact with an infected animal. The papules’ location is closely linked to the way in which you associate with the animal. Scabies from cows may appear in the back of the neck, shoulders and wrists. This makes sense when you see a farmer attach milking machine to cows. The itch mites easily penetrate fabrics. Dogs or cats in bed allows for papules and itching all over the body. Otherwise, pseudo-scabies from cats and dogs are usually found on the flexible parts of the arms, chest, abdomen, thighs and lower legs. Be aware that fur mites from dogs and cats can cause similar symptoms in humans.

Waiting period
In order to be infected with pseudo-scabies, you must have been in contact with the infected animal for a relatively long period of time – 3 weeks or more. Scabies and pseudo-scabies are of allergic reaction to the mites’ presence in the skin. The first mites that burrow, does not cause any symptoms. They merely activate the immune system. It is not until a few weeks after the infection that the skin will react to new mites with papules and itching. If you have had scabies before – either human scabies or pseudo-scabies – your immune system is already activated and your skin will react more quickly to the pseudo-scabies.