Why Mange Is Now Rare In Adelaide

Every seen a mangy dog? Probably not the way I mean. You have to be my age or older, or travel to disadvantaged places, to be likely to say yes these days. What passes for ‘mange’ now is nothing compared to what it looked like up to a generation ago.

Strangely, I miss those times. We vets were like gods, healing a terrible and ancient disease for good with just a touch here and a prod there. You could literally see the hair regrowing like a freshly seeded lawn. It was easy to be a hero, even if all we were doing was taking the credit for someone else’s work.

dog neck mange

By self (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The pictures show the classic appearance of the dogs we would see. The disease I’m talking about can still be seen in other places, but in Adelaide, it’s now virtually non-existent. The reason it’s disappeared contains a vital message to dog owners.

What Is Mange?

Mange is an old name for widespread hair loss and dermatitis. Like most mediaeval medical terms, the name ‘mange’ isn’t a diagnosis, it’s a description of a set of symptoms. The same is true for other terms like ‘consumption’, ‘dropsy’ or even ‘distemper’ even though these have since developed more precise meanings.

dog mange rump

By self (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are actually at least four common diseases under the ‘mange’ umbrella:

  • Sarcoptic mange
  • Demodectic mange
  • Atopic dermatitis (atopy)
  • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)

Sarcoptic and demodectic mange are both uncommon problems caused by burrowing mites. Atopy is essentially a skin allergy, and while it can be severe, with good skin management it almost never gets as bad as the dog in the picture.

Why Mange Disappeared From Adelaide

You’ve no doubt guessed it by now: mange was mostly caused by fleas. The crazy thing is: we didn’t know that for sure until we were able to fix it. The game-changer was the development of a new class of flea control that finally worked.

So there we were, seeing these dogs day in and day out who had lived sometimes ten years in a life of constant itch. We would prescribe this new expensive wonder drug called Program and wait. Before too long, owners would stop us on the street, or bring the dogs back just to show the amazing hair regrowth after all those years.

Then came Advantage and Frontline, prices dropped and the game was up. In one fell swoop, a disease disappeared.

Why We Missed The Fleas

You must be asking, “why didn’t you see fleas on the dogs if they were the cause?” This is the crux of the matter: you almost never find fleas on dogs who become allergic to them. Think about all that scratching and biting. So much so that both vets and owners are fooled alike.

I think the best illustration comes from scientific papers at the time. Veterinary skin specialists like to publish the results of allergy tests and their reports from the 1990s contain a big surprise. Many Australian and American skin specialists were diagnosing flea allergy in up to half of the dogs referred to them by veterinarians!

Now I’m fairly certain that no vet intended to send a flea problem to a specialist. It’s just that they couldn’t tell. Without a flea control that could eliminate 100% of the fleas, allergy signs would persist and responses to treatment would be poor. It’s likely the vets didn’t know what the problem was and had no easy way of working it out.

Hooray For Progress!

How life has changed for dogs. That 5% who would suffer excruciating disease from simple flea bites now looks just like the rest of the dogs. And the advances keep coming. What happened in the 1990s for mange is now being repeated for atopy. This time, its a drug called Apoquel, and yes, for now, it also costs a mint. But I guess that’s the price of progress.

In conclusion, I need to point out that this article refers mainly to privileged areas. There are many places, even in Australia, where flea mange still exists, and sarcoptic and demodectic mange are also common. These too are easily treated by new wonder drugs. You’ll find our page explaining all the new parasite treatments of dogs here.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

Help! My Dog Is Peeing Inside

At A Glance (Details Below)

What To Do

If A Dog Urinates In The House

  1. Urinating in the bed is almost never a behavioural issue
  2. Most cases are an easily treatable form of incontinence
  3. A loss of toilet training in an older dog is often caused by urinary infection, excessive thirst and mobility or cognition problems


Now dive deeper… Read more

Help! My Dog Is Drinking A Lot

At A Glance (Details Below)

What To Do

If A Dog Drinks More Than Usual

  1. When dogs drink more it’s usually hormonal or kidney issues
  2. These are all easily diagnosed on routine blood & urine testing
  3. The top cause in small breed dogs is Cushings Disease
  4. If testing is normal, there’s usually nothing to worry about


Now dive deeper… Read more

Help! My Dog Is Limping

This isn’t just a catalog of limping dogs. By knowing the leg problems that dogs get you have a better chance of preventing some, identifying others and taking them all seriously.

I’ve gone back through our records, found the top 20 with pictures. The list below is sorted into ‘puppy’, ‘adult’ and ‘common’ problemsVisit this page to see which problems happen in the front or back legs and how to tell which leg is sore.

Read more

Caring For Newborn Puppies

Hopefully you’ve read our guides to:

Now the fun really begins. Here’s what to do and what to expect during the first 6 weeks of a litter of puppies.

Post Whelping Check

Please come down to the clinic in the first 24 hours. We’ll make sure mum is healthy, look for retained placentas or puppies and check her milk production. We’ll also give each puppy a quick once-over to look for obvious and serious problems. All this can be done in a single appointment.


I’ve written about runts before. Suffice to say, it’s not a precise term and most pups called runts are actually just naturally smaller. You do need to make sure that smaller or less vigorous pups are getting equal access to teats.

Looking After New Puppies

The best way to keep an eye on the pups is a daily weigh-in. That way you’ll quickly notice if one of them is failing to gain weight at the same rate as the others. In big litters (usually larger breeds) there may not be enough milk production or teats for all the pups. The last thing you want is a fight for survival happening in your nest box.

pile of puppiesIn these situations, or whenever mismothering occurs, supplementing the pups with puppy milk formula is easy to do. Just ask for help.

You may also find that one pup is getting too big. This is especially common with small litters and can have serious consequences for their leg development if not corrected. Only a vet can tell you if this is happening but weighing the pups should get you suspicious.

Remember what I said: quiet pups are usually happy pups.

Mother’s Health

Most suckling bitches will lose weight until the puppies are weaned. This is usually OK but needs watching. Occasionally two serious problems occur:

  • Mastitis: when a mammary gland becomes infected. The affected gland is hot and painful, and the mother is quite unwell.
  • Hypocalcaemia: sometimes called puerperal tetany, when calcium losses in milk exceed the mother’s ability to maintain normal blood levels, causing severe muscle tremors.

For both of these, the pups are best weaned onto formula.

Neonatal Puppy Development

Puppies with open their eyes after 2 weeks and by four weeks are able to walk, run and play. Starting puppies on solids isn’t too hard, and comes naturally with age. From two weeks of age, offer a moistened puppy food near where the pups are exploring. Their curiosity will usually do the rest.

From four weeks they should all be eating solids and by six weeks it’s possible to wean them off the mother. In practice, pups will continue to suckle as long as mum lets them.

When Do Puppies Need Their First Vaccination?

At six weeks of age all puppies should visit the vet for a health check and C3 vaccine. If mum needs a booster this is a good time as well. It is essential that all puppies don’t just get immunised but also receive an individual complete health check prior to sale or rehoming. This is to check for common congenital conditions and especially heart murmurs. Better you know now that sell a puppy with a serious defect.

Most vets (including us) offer a reduced fee for litter vaccinations and microchipping (recommended and may become compulsory with sale). Make sure you get a certificate for each puppy that will be included in the sale documents.

It’s also possible to have the puppies desexed before sale, especially if you are concerned the new owners may breed inappropriately. Our advice? On balance it’s better for the puppies’ health to wait until later.


The biggest infectious disease threat to puppies is worm infestation. During pregnancy, the mother’s immunity is lower and worms take the opportunity to migrate into the foetuses via the placenta.

Puppies and mothers should be wormed every two weeks from two weeks of age. That’s the same length of time as the worm life cycle, so they can’t build up. As your vet for a wormer safe for young puppies.

Quarantine Rules

Pups are susceptible to all sort of common bugs and you need to protect them. Maintain strict quarantine with all visitors and especially people coming to view the pups. It’s likely they were just handing other dogs and puppies elsewhere.

Handwashing with soap and water is compulsory, not those silly alcohol gels. Parvovirus is spread in soil and dirt, so getting everyone to turn Japanese and leave their shoes at the front step is another good idea. The same applies to you of course, and it’s a good idea to avoid other dogs for the moment.


Puppies toilet train quicker if they haven’t already developed bad habits. You aren’t responsible for toilet training the puppies but you can make it easier for the new owner by not letting them pee and poo on the floor. All you need to do is cover the area around their nest in something else, especially training mats or newspaper. Medical suppliers can get you incontinence mats much more cheaply than pet stores.

Don’t do what I saw one breeder do and use old sheets; the puppies learnt to see any fabric on the floor as a toilet!

Choosing New Owners

If you’ve bought a puppy from a registered breeder you’ll know how many questions they put you through. That’s a good standard to keep. Some people may get offended, but most will understand you’re just trying to do the right thing.

A good idea is to send each puppy with a sample of the food they are eating (to avoid sudden change) and a piece of their nursing blanket (to provide familiar smells). Some breeders even fit an Adaptil collar as an excellent way to further reduce anxiety.

One last piece of advice is to get the new owners to contact their vet straight away. If their vet is anything like us, they will offer them a free puppy checkup to get them on the right track straight away, and be able to offer early finish vaccines to get the puppies out and about by 11 weeks of age.

You’ll shed a tear when they depart, but it’s not the end. Thanks to social media you should be able to watch the puppies grow into happy and loved dogs for years to come.

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

All About Dog Breeding

Know what a BYB is? That’s what some people call a ‘backyard breeder’. They see ‘BYB’s as poorly educated breeders of unhealthy pups totally motivated by money. In other words, no better than puppy farms.

I have to tell you, there are certainly people like that here in Adelaide, and the new laws on dog breeding can’t come soon enough to help get rid of them. But there’s another side to this story. Some of the best-bred dogs in Adelaide come from backyard breeders. And it’s not just me saying it; sensible dog trainers say the same thing.

Pros and Cons of Backyard Breeding

home breeder puppy

Dog bred well by local family


  • Puppies grow up in a rich, social, family environment
  • People who breed for love often have very high standards
  • Good homes can usually be found in the breeder’s social group


  • Mistakes occur from a lack of experience or knowledge of dog breeding
  • Puppies bred only for money rarely get adequate care
  • Undesirable traits like anxiety or aggression can appear
  • Genetic diseases like hip dysplasia or skin diseases may not be managed
  • Inbreeding from accidental matings can occur

You’ll need to be ready for a lot of criticism from purebred breeders. Many have the opinion that breeding should be done to ‘improve’ breeds and that their testing and assessment skills are essential to achieving this. While to some extent this is true, especially from a breed standard point of view, practical problems other than changes in appearance aren’t common.

Is Breeding Crossbreeds OK?

There is particular debate around creating crossbreeds. However, most vets agree that a cross-bred dog can be healthier than a purebred. Personally, as much as I support and admire the purebreds, I have no problem with deliberate cross-breeding for family pets if the sire and dam are selected with care.

I’ve written before about how to avoid buying puppies from bad breeders. Now I want to tell you how you can be an excellent breeder and avoid the common mistakes. Be warned though: dog breeding can be very rewarding but there are high financial and emotional costs as well. From August 2018, you will also need to be registered as a breeder in South Australia if you intend to sell the puppies.

Planning The Parents

Before you get set on breeding, discuss your plans with your vet. Your vet will support you if it’s in the interest of the puppies and the mother. Ask if the two dogs you plan to breed are compatible, or if they have any genetic faults that prevent breeding. Be prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer if the vet says it’s unethical or thinks you aren’t ready.

If possible, ask if your breeder is happy to help. You might find they will support you in exchange for first pick of the litter, and that’s probably a good deal. They might have a preferred sire you can use if you have only the female.

Then ask about or research the genetic diseases of your dog’s breed. In susceptible breeds your vet may recommend genetic tests or hip dysplasia xrays.

Getting Pregnant

Dogs, like most animals, are built to breed and can’t be judged on human ideas of morals. A mating, whether wanted or not, almost always results in a pregnancy. You’ll often hear unwanted matings called ‘misalliance’ which to me sounds hilariously old fashioned. It can just be a matter of happening when it wasn’t planned, but serious problems can result. These include:

1. Brothers & Sisters Breeding

One of the largest causes of unplanned litters is people assuming siblings won’t breed. They will. If this has happened to you, it’s far from ideal, but don’t panic. A single ‘inbred’ litter doesn’t usually have major problems or birth defects. Just don’t do it again and don’t sell two of these puppies together!

2. Size Mismatch

If it wasn’t so serious it’s be funny. Just because you have a Maltese and a German Shepherd doesn’t mean they won’t work it out. When the female is the smaller breed it’s best to terminate this pregnancy before she gets into big trouble. If the male is smaller, it should be OK.

3. Breeding Too Young

Female dogs should not be bred on the first heat. If this happens, there are usually problems giving birth, and young bitches (still being puppies themselves) are often not emotionally equipped to care for their litter of puppies.

When Do Dogs Go Into Heat?

The ‘heat’, season or oestrus is the time when female dogs are fertile and accept the male. Dogs come into season roughly every 6 to 9 months starting at 6 to 9 months of age. The exact timings vary depending on the individual.

Each heat usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks and is recognised by drops of blood-tinged fluid, vulval swelling and increased interest from males. The first heat is often ‘silent’ to you or I (but not other dogs!) but is still fertile if mating occurs. The only way to prevent mating is complete physical separation. Sending the male on a short ‘holiday’ is a good idea both for you and him.

Breed Problems With Birth

Many professional breeders of high risk breeds get caesarian sections done routinely at their due date. I think this is just one example of what can be wrong with dog breeding practises. By not selecting bitches able to give birth naturally, dogs become entirely dependent on vets for successful breeding. If you have one of these breeds (mostly those with large heads like Bulldogs and Pugs) please make a plan with your vet early.

Can Dogs Take Contraceptives?

Yes. There is an excellent, safe male contraceptive implant called Suprelorin, containing deslorelin. It provides a choice of 6 or 12 months of fertility suppression. There is no equivalent safe method for females; hormonal contraceptives in bitches often lead to severe side effects and are no longer recommended. Female dogs not intended for breeding, or those at the end of their breeding life should be desexed.

Terminating Pregnancy

Sadly, some pregnancies in dogs are better stopped before they cause problems. If this has happened to your dog, ring your vet to discuss the options. The best way for early pregnancies is usually an injection called Alizin (algepristone) which causes a gentle and usually unnoticed loss of pregnancies at up to 20 days gestation.

It’s generally successful but we recommend an ultrasound examination 2 weeks later just to be sure.

Now readPregnancy Testing, Care For Pregnant Dogs & Counting The Puppies

Then you may like: How to help dogs give birth and look after newborn pups.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.