Dog Demodicosis – How to Treat Skin Irritating Mites in Dogs

By Kyoko •  Updated: 11/12/20 •  9 min read
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You may not be familiar with the term “demodicosis,” but you’ve probably heard of mange. Mange is caused by mites such as Scabies or Demodex mites. If your fur baby’s been diagnosed with demodicosis, then he has a skin infection caused by Demodex mites.

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Demodicosis is a common health problem in dogs, but is most common in dogs that don’t live a healthy lifestyle or in a healthy environment. This is a very uncomfortable, painful condition for dogs and we’re here to help you find the information you need to help your fur baby feel better!

What is Demodicosis?

Demodicosis (also known as Demodectic mange or red mange) is a form of mange, an infection of the skin, caused by the Demodex mite. The disease is most often found in puppies (under 2 years of age) and also in older dogs. However, the condition can be found in dogs that are not eating good food or living in a healthy, clean environment.

The infection begins when a dog’s immune system is not strong and healthy. This could be caused by an unhealthy diet, underlying disease, etc. When the immune system’s compromised, the mites begin to take over. It’s important to understand that Demodex mites are present on most dogs, but in small numbers. The mites live in the hair follicle and on the dog’s skin. In smaller numbers, these mites do not cause symptoms; however, when they grow to be too numerous, you’ll begin to see the signs and symptoms of this horrible, itchy skin condition.

Signs & Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

Demodicosis can either be localized (found in only a few areas) or generalized (in larger areas or even on most of the skin). The localized version is generally found on the face, while the generalized form is in more places on the dog’s body. Not only can the dog suffer from itchy, painful skin, but the dog may also develop secondary bacterial infections that bring on fever, etc.

Symptoms of demodicosis can include:

Localized form:

Generalized form:

If a dog has the generalized form of demodicosis, they may have a scruffy appearance and have large areas without hair. A secondary infection will cause the dog to lose weight, loss of appetite, lethargy, etc. In addition to these two forms of demodex mite infestation; a juvenile (from puppy to 4 years of age) form of this itchy medical condition is often found in puppies, and generally is the localized form. The adult form (over the age of 4) of a Demodex infection can take the generalized form and is often consider a more severe form of this medical condition.

Demodex Canis Life Cycle

Demodex mites can quickly become problem in a dog with a weakened immune systems. In fact, these mites have a fast life cycle, which lasts about 3 weeks. A female mite can lay as many as 20-24 eggs at time, in the hair follicle. The larvae (baby mites) have 6 legs and look the same as the adults all through their 3 larval stages. The mites are generally transmitted through close contact—this is why puppies often have mites—they are passed to the puppies by their mother.

Doesn’t this just make you itchy? Think of how your poor dog must feel. If you find symptoms of a mite infection on your dog, then it’s time for a trip the veterinarian.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of this itchy condition is very straightforward. If your vet suspects your canine companion has a form of mange, he’ll do need perform a demodicosis dog differential diagnosis to see what type of mites are causing the problem. The vet will scrape your dog’s skin and/or pluck a hair, since mites live in hair follicles.

These specimens will then be checked under a microscope—the vet will be looking for the mites causing your dog’s skin problem

Treatment of Demodectic Mange in Dogs

The treatment of demodicosis is also very straightforward. The goal of treatment is to kill the mites, healing your dog’s skin and any secondary infections. The localized form of demodicosis rarely needs to be treated, as these infestations usually resolve on their own. However, generalized mange caused by Demodex mites will need to be treated with oral or topical mite prevention medications, antibiotics for secondary infections and may also require your dog to have his fur clipped, and then be treated with a dip that also kills the mites, while healing/softening the skin.

Medications used to treat this form of mange include isoxazoline flea and tick treatments for dogs. Another type of medication is ivermectin. The dosing frequency with the isoxazoline medications is usually one chewable tablet every 2-6 weeks, while ivermectin is usually given as a daily tablet. Your vet will determine the amount of time needed for treatment; this will vary depending on the severity of the mite infection.

After diagnosis, your vet may also suggest that it will be helpful to do a skin scraping once a month to monitor your pup’s condition, as well as determining if the mites are becoming fewer with treatment. This process may need to continue for a couple of months or more, until the skin scrapings are negative and the dog’s skin is healing up.

Demodex Dog Treatment Home

It’s always a good idea to take your fur baby to the vet for a diagnosis, and to make sure there’s not an underlying health problem causing the condition. However, there are some treatments you can do from home after your dog’s diagnosis. In fact, some vets even take a more holistic approach to help your dog recover. Your vet may say it’s OK to use a combination of traditional treatment methods with holistic and home treatments. The first step is to control your fur baby’s itching. You might ask your vet if Valerian, Chamomile, St. John’s Wort or Kava Kava, or a combination of these herbs is safe for your dog.

These herbs are great for reducing inflammation, relieving itchiness and helping to keep your dog calm

What about essential oils for demodectic mange? A holistic vet may also suggest the use of certain essential oils, such as:

Lavender: is great for repelling mites; it also works to prevent mites from living on your dog. If you choose lavender, make sure there are no other ingredients that could be harmful to your pup. You can mix Lavender essential oil into your dog’s shampoo—just add about 10 drops of essential oil, then mix well to combine. Use this mix about 2 times a week until your dog looks and feels better.

Lemongrass: is another herb great for repelling pests, including mites. This herb also acts as a natural pain reliever for sore muscles, and has an antibacterial effect. Mix 6 drops of the essential oil with one liter of clean water, and mix until combined. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and apply to your dog—don’t be afraid to spray on too much—you’ll want to cover every area of your pup’s skin.

Before using these home remedies on your dog, be sure to check with the vet first. Your dog may be sensitive to these herbs or may have such an advanced case of demodectic manage that these natural ingredients could cause more damage. Be sure these mixtures as diluted as directed, to avoid causing your fur baby additional health problems.

Coconut Oil for Demodectic Mange

What about coconut oil for treating mange? Is that a possible treatment? For most dogs, coconut oil is safe; however, be aware that it can cause an allergic reaction in some dogs.

Coconut can be added to your pup’s shampoo to help eliminate mites and heal his itchy, scaly skin. Coconut oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and healing properties. It could be a good choice for your dog. While home remedies can be helpful to get rid of a mite infestation/infection, it may be necessary to use both home remedies combined with traditional treatments. This is especially true if your dog has a severe case of demodicosis.

Demodicosis Prevention

Now that you’re feeling itchy after reading to this point, you may be asking if there’s any way to prevent demodex mange. And the answer is yes!

First, the good news is that this is a treatable condition, especially when caught early. Next, prevention starts with regular checkups with the vet. Depending on your fur baby’s overall health, your vet may recommend annual visits or visits every 6 months. In addition, if you notice that your dog has all of a sudden developed bald patches and raised, red skin, then it’s time to get him to the vet. In addition, regular exams can catch underlying health problems that could weaken your dog’s immune system, which could lead to a mite infestation.  Early treatment will keep the infection from becoming the generalized, more severe form of this mite problem.

It’s also helpful to keep your dog away from other dogs you suspect may have mange. Closes contact is one of the ways your canine companion could become infested with mites. Make sure your fur baby has a clean dog house, clean bedding and that his environment (including your home) are cleaned on a regular basis. Also make sure to bathe your dog and brush/groom him on a regular basis. Nutrition is also important, as nutrients (of the right kind and in the right amounts) work to keep your fur baby’s immune system strong and healthy. With the right nutrition, your dog’s immune system will stay strong enough to keep mite numbers to a minimum.

We hope the information in this article didn’t make you too itchy! We also help the article has given you a better idea of what a demodicosis infection is and how to successfully treat it. You and your vet may choose to go the traditional treatment route, but you may also ask your vet about using some alternative therapies along with the traditional treatments. We wish you and your fur baby many, many happy itch-free days!

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Kyoko

Kyoko is from a family of 3 and moved to New York with her parents and siblings when she was 13. Kyoko is fond of spending a great amount of time with pets, specifically her beagle Luna and cat Missy. Her boyfriend often complains that she spends too much time giving attention to their animals. Kyoko has written dozens of articles concerning pets and is aiming at owning a pet shop one day!

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