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Mange is a class of skin diseases caused by parasitic
mites. Today, we finish our series on mange in dogs
by looking at the third mite that commonly causes
skin infections in dogs: Demodex canis. While some
mange mites are not normal residents of a dog s
skin and hair follicles, other species of mites live on
and in the bodies of dogs without causing a problem,
but any type of mite can cause a skin condition if
there are enough of them.
It is believed that all dogs have small numbers of
Demodex mites residing in the skin and feeding in
the hair follicle and oil glands of the skin. Having a
few mites is normal and causes no problems. It is
when environmental, nutritional or immune-related
stresses impact the dog that visible skin lesions from
mite infestations become noticeable.
The Demodex mite is born, lives and dies on a host
dog. Eggs are laid, hatched and mature on the host
through the larval and nymph stages to adulthood;
with the entire life cycle taking about 20 to 35 days.
Diagnosing demodectic mange requires a skin scraping
or biopsy done by your veterinarian.
The mites are too small to be seen with the naked
eye, so their presence must be confirmed using a
microscope. They resemble miniature alligators. How-
ever, the mere presence of Demodex mites does not
confirm the diagnosis since the mites live in all dogs.
Therefore, the mites must also be found in any skin
lesions for a diagnosis of demodectic mange to be
A diagnosis of Demodex in an adult or older dog
should always prompt testing for other conditions like
Cushing s disease, hypothyroidism, heartworm disease,
cancer or immune deficiency.
Demodectic mange is also called puppy mange,
because it is most common among young dogs.
Demodex mites are transferred through direct contact
from the mother dog to her puppies during their first
week of life. The mites cannot survive off the dog,
so they must move directly from dog to dog through
physical contact. Most puppies have no reaction to
them, but puppies with inadequate immune systems
can become overburdened by mites. These are the
puppies who develop symptoms of demodectic mange.
Symptoms include itchy skin due to secondary bac-
terial and yeast infections that are almost always
present along with the mites, hair loss, bald spots,
scabbing, and sores on the skin. Some dogs become
quite ill with a fever, loss of appetite and lethargy.
There are three varieties of demodectic mange:
• Localised demodectic mange affects just a few
body parts---the most common being the face, with
a small patch of lesions appearing around the face.
This condition is most commonly seen in puppies,
and most cases resolve on their own without any
treatment as pups become immuno-competent.
• Generalised demodectic mange involves larger
areas of skin or even the entire body. This variation
creates secondary bacterial infections that cause intense
itching, a foul odour, and can be very challenging to
• Demodectic pododermatitis is confined to the
foot and creates secondary bacterial infections between
the toes and the pads of the feet. It is the toughest
of all three types to get rid of.
Demodectic mange must be first diagnosed by your
veterinarian in order for the appropriate treatment to
be given. A treatment programme will be devised by
your veterinarian and includes medications given
orally, applied topically, via injection or shampoos and
dip. Management of physiological stress is essential.
Despite the option chosen, treatment should be accom-
panied by skin scrapes every two weeks. After two
consecutive scrapes are negative, medication is dis-
continued, but a final scrape should be performed
one month after treatment to ensure there is no recur-
Dogs with demodectic mange need not be isolated
from other dogs, and the environment/bedding needs
no treatment because the condition is not technically
contagious. Rather, it is the result of a weakened
Although Demodex mites can be transferred from
one dog to another, as long as the other dog is healthy,
the mites simple add to that dog s natural mite pop-
ulation and no skin disease results. However, dogs
with demodectic mange should not be bred. Their
immune systems are incompetent, and those faulty
genes should not be passed on to future generations.
It is very rare for Demodex mites to be transmitted
Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2014. For
further information, contact 689-8113 or bestpets-
Demodectic mange must be first
diagnosed by your veterinarian in
order for the appropriate treatment to
be given. A treatment programme will
be devised by your veterinarian and
includes medications given orally,
applied topically, via injection or
shampoos and dip. Management of
physiological stress is essential.
Despite the option chosen, treatment
should be accompanied by skin scrapes
every two weeks. After two
consecutive scrapes are negative,
medication is discontinued, but a final
scrape should be performed one month
after treatment to ensure there is no
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