Demodectic mange, also known as Red mange, Demodicosis or Demodex is the most common type of mange we see in canines. This mange occurs from an overgrowth of microscopic mites that live in the hair follicles of every dog and cat. The three different mites that cause Demodex are Demodex injai, Demodex gatoi and Demodex canis. Demodex injai and gatoi are rarely seen but have affected cats on very few occasions. Demodex canis is the type we see most in dogs. This form of mange is not passable to cats or humans and is generally not considered contagious to other dogs either.
Since these mites are normally present on all dogs, the overgrowth and resulting mange is usually found on very young or old dogs or dogs with suppressed immune systems. Very young puppies will receive the mites from their mothers and mange can result because their immunes systems are not yet fully developed. When an otherwise seemingly healthy adult dog develops Demodex, it is important to look closer at the dog's overall health because their may be some underlying medical issue like an immune mediated disease or environmental impact (stress) that is suppressing the immune system to the point where the mites are able to spread. If Demodex is left untreated the mites can lead to infections and ulcers that become dangerous to your pet’s health.
There are three types of Demodex seen, Demodectic Pododermatitis, Localized and Generalized. Demodectic Pododermatitis is exclusively on the paws and is very difficult to get rid of. Also, there is usually a bacterial infection accompanying the mites.
Localized Demodectic mange only affects a small area of the dog's body such as a bald patch on the leg or face. Localized Demodex is usually seen only in puppies and resolves fairly easily when their immune system gains strength. Many times treatment isn’t even needed.
Generalized Demodectic mange affects the whole body. Hair loss will be seen in numerous places around the body and may be accompanied by itching and irritated or infected skin. A puppy or young dog may get generalized Demodex due to an immune system that is not completely developed yet. If a mature dog displays generalized Demodex it is important to do further testing to check for any other medical issues that may be present.
A diagnosis is reached by a veterinarian performing a skin scrape of the affected area and examining the skin cells on the slide under the microscope. Demodex mites cannot be seen with the naked eye but will be visible under magnification.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity and range from ointments, shampoos and dips to oral or injectable medications. These are usually prescribed for multiple treatments. The preferred medication for treatment at Eagle Animal Hospital is the antiparasitic, Ivermectin. Also, antibiotics and possibly steroids may be necessary when infections accompany the mites. Repeating multiple skin scrapes are also recommended after treatment to ensure the Demodex is under control, it may take several treatments to find a clear skin scrape slide. Reoccurring Demodex is not uncommon but usually happens within one year. Our veterinarians like to see two clear slides (taken several weeks apart) before declaring a dog Demodex-free.
As the pet’s owner there are things you can do to help quicken the recovery or for prevention, basically keeping you pet happy and healthy to ensure a strong immune system. Avoid unnecessary stress, keep them up to date on wellness exams and vaccinations, feed a good diet and allow appropriate exercise.
If you feel your dog is displaying symptoms of Demodex or would like to learn more, contact our office 610-458-8789. Eagle Animal Hospital serves Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.
Written by Kaelin Mast, receptionist