ALL CREATURES ANIMAL CLINIC, LTD.
Mark Hale, DVM
WHAT IS DEMODICOSIS?
Demodicosis or demodectic mange is a noncontagious skin disease of dogs.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
The disease is caused by a tiny parasite, a mite (Demodex canis), that lives in the hair follicles and glands of the skin of dogs.
HOW DOES THE DISEASE DEVELOP?
While nursing, newborn pups pick up the mites from the skin of their dam. The mites inhabit the skin of many normal puppies and do not cause disease. However, some pups have a defect in their immune system (immunodeficiency) that allows the mites to multiply in greater-than-normal numbers.
Their hair follicles, where the mites live, become infected with bacteria, fill with pus, and rupture. The hairs then break off. The skin becomes scaly, reddened, and oozing or crusted.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DEMODICOSIS?
At first, the disease is localized (only small portions of the skin are affected). Generally, the first signs are seen on the face, especially the areas around the eyes and mouth, and the front legs. Reddened, scaly patches and hair loss are common.
As the disease progresses and becomes generalized, the scaly patches spread to the trunk and legs. At this point, the skin may become infected and painful and often has an unpleasant odor.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
A skin scraping is taken and examined microscopically to detect the presence of large numbers of Demodex mites.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?
In less severe localized cases, therapy consists of applying a miticide to the affected areas. In order to penetrate the hair follicles where the mites live, the medication must be rubbed thoroughly into the skin. In addition, it must be applied repeatedly for as long as necessary to kill the mites.
In severe generalized cases, hospitalization may be necessary and a very strong dip applied to kill the mites. The dog's coat may be clipped so the dip can penetrate the skin easily.
Dip the dog with Mitaban dip every one to two weeks for a total of at least four dips. One bottle of Mitaban dip (10.6 ml) mixes with two gallons of water. You can mix 1/2 bottle (5.3 ml) with one gallon of water each time to save money. Apply eye ointment in eyes before dipping. Use Q-tips or cotton balls to blot areas around the eyes.
Because the dip can be toxic to the animal if used incorrectly, extreme care is required when it is applied at home. Trembling, lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea may indicate a possible toxic reaction. Call our office if you notice these signs.
DO DOGS COMPLETELY RECOVER FROM DEMODICOSIS?
Animals with localized cases of demodicosis usually recover well without recurrence. However, conscientious therapy is required for full recovery in severe, generalized cases. Even so, because a defect in the immune system plays a part in demodicosis, some dogs do not recover. If the skin infection spreads to other body tissues, the animal may die. Severely affected animals that do recover, seldom show signs of the disease again.
SHOULD A DOG BE USED FOR BREEDING AFTER RECOVERING FROM DEMODICOSIS?
The tendency to develop demodicosis is hereditary. Therefore, animals that have recovered from the disease should not be bred because they may pass this tendency to their offspring. Breeds often affected include English Bulldogs, Doberman Pinchers, Dachshunds, Beagles, Boxers, and Old English Sheepdogs.