“Just imagine your dog with all its hair fallen out, and it smells like yeast, really badly.” That’s how Nancy Yaeger, veterinary technician at Heart and Hand Veterinary Clinic in Matthews, described mange.

Mange is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites that animals carry with them their entire lives, but only cause a problem if the dog is subject to high stress, or if the dog’s immune system is compromised for some reason.

Dr. Christine Miles is the veterinarian at Heart and Hand, said the clinic only sees a handful of mange cases each year, but that the disease has two types, Demodectic and Sarcoptic, only the latter of which can spread to humans.

The mites live either in the skin or in hair follicles, and wen the immune system weakens, will multiply and cause mange.

Secondary illnesses, including bacterial infections, can be caused as a by-product of mange.

When pets affected by mange are brought to the clinic, they are treated with Ivermectin, a drug that must be applied every day for two months.

Miles and Yaeger have no specific tips to keeping your pet from contracting mange, only saying that healthy and happy pets generally need not worry about the skin disease.

Most pet owners bring pets to the clinic for treatment after noticing the odor and loss of hair. The disease usually affects puppies, because the immune system in a puppy is not as strong as an adult.

“Most animals that are healthy and happy don’t get mange,” Yaeger said. “There’s nothing you can really do to prevent mange, it’s just to have a healthy dog, a healthy, happy dog.”