Mange (demodicosis) is an inflammatory disease in dogs caused by the Demodex mite. When the number of mites on the hair follicles and skin of a dog rapidly increase, it can lead to skin lesions, skin infections and hair loss (alopecia). The severity of the symptoms depends upon the specific type of mite inhabiting the dog.
The Symptoms and Types of Demodectic Mange in Dogs
Demodectic mange in dogs can be localized, meaning that it affects only the specific areas of the body where the mites are located or mange can be generalized and then it affects the entire body.
If localized, the symptoms are usually mild, with the mange lesions occurring in patches, especially on the face, torso or legs. If the mange mite infestation is generalized, symptoms will be much more widespread and appear across the body. These symptoms include alopecia, redness of the skin (erythema) and the appearance of scales and lesions.
The demodex mite is a normal inhabitant of your dog’s skin. In the normally present numbers, these mites cause no symptoms and may serve an important role as part of your dog’s normal skin micro fauna (similar to the way healthy bacteria is important in digestive health and humans have our own micro fauna that causes us no illness or harm normally).
Three species of mites have been identified as causing mange in dogs. The species of mite most commonly associated with demodicosis is Demodex canis, which inhabits both the skin and hair follicles and may be transmitted from mother to newborn during nursing. Nearly all dogs carry these mites, and very few suffer symptoms. There is controversy about whether mites may transfer between dogs after the first few weeks of life. However, evidence supporting such transmission is rare except in chronic severe mange.
However, when dogs have a compromised immune system and are not good at fighting infections or can react to mites by mast cell and histamine causing skin inflammation, itching and a allergic response, the mites can start to multiply unchecked and cause an imbalance in their microfauna of the skin leading to demodectic mange and the telltale itchy skin.
Skin scrapings are used to find and diagnose demodicosis in dogs. A hair sample to look for mites or infectious vectors may also help identify the mite or condition responsible for the skins poor condition.
Alternative diagnoses may include bacterial infection in the hair follicle, other types of mange, or there are autoimmune disease of the skin or other metabolic diseases that can affect the skin of dogs.
Treatment of Demodectic Mange in Dogs
If localized, the problem is likely to resolve itself and disappear spontaneously, which happens in approximately 90 percent of cases. No treatment is required. For more severe or generalized cases, long-term topical or oral medications may be necessary to control the condition. Female dogs should be spayed, as fluctuations in hormones can exacerbate the disease. Dogs with generalized chronic mange should not be bred, as the condition is likely to be passed to offspring. High-quality dog food and a low-stress domestic environment may also help reduce future flare-ups. A chill dog is a dog without hot spots that they have inflammation and itching on.
There are now many safe treatments available for dog demodectic mange. The easiest are the isoxazoline-based flea and tick medicines for dogs.
The frequency of dosing will depend on which brand is chosen, but it’s typically one chewable tablet every 2-6 weeks for mange. An older drug, ivermectin, is equally very effective but requires daily dosing until the infection is controlled. Both have the added benefit of protecting the dog from fleas and tick bites of which can further aggravate and compound canine skin conditions. While these medications are labeled for use against mites in other countries, the FDA considers this use “off-label” and therefore carries warnings, so you should discuss treatment with your veterinarian.
Though you may read about the use of motor oil in treating mange, it is HIGHLY TOXIC to dogs and should never be applied to their skin or fed to them. You can kill your dog this way. Do not follow advice from the internet not founded in evidence-based medicine.
Living and Management of Demodectic Mange
Follow-up care with your vet will include skin scrapings to continually monitor the presence of mites and check the treatment’s progress. With chronic long-term cases, regular medication may be required. Your veterinarian will continue treatment for several weeks after there is no longer evidence of mites. Year-round dog flea and tick treatments with a product that is also effective against mites is highly recommended for dogs with a history of mange.
Most dogs recover completely, especially if they are under 18 months, when they are diagnosed with demodectic mange. They will regrow a lovely coat again.
The mites are not contagious to humans or cats.
Prevention of Demodex in Dogs
General good health and nutrition may help prevent some cases. Consult professionals if you have any concerns or questions.