Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Information on the symptoms of demodectic red mange on dogs.

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  1. What is Demodectic Mange?
  2. What Causes Demodectic Mange?
  3. Diagnosing Demodectic Mange
  4. Help for Demodectic Mange
  5. More Information on Demodectic Mange

What is Demodectic Mange?

Demodectic mange also known as demodex, demodicosis, or red mange is caused by an over population of demodectic mites. There are a number of different species of this type of parasitic mite, and they usually live in the hair follicles of our pets.

These mites are almost always transmitted from mother to young in the first few weeks of life, and generally live in harmony on your pet without causing any problems. However, when something such as malnutrition, a weakened immune system, or intense stress disrupts this natural balance, these mites can reproduce rapidly and become out of control.

Because the mites that cause demodectic mange live in the hair follicles of dogs, hair loss is usually the first noticed symptom. Hair loss typically begins on the head area, often starting around the eyes and muzzle. Other symptoms include crusty, red skin that may look moist in appearance, and in some cases, the affected areas can become sensitive and itchy and may even crack and ooze.

Demodectic mange ranges from mild, to very serious and if left untreated, it can actually be fatal. In serious cases hair loss can spread over vast areas of the body, lymph nodes can become swollen, the skin can become inflamed and painful and secondary infections can quickly develop. Some dogs become very ill and may develop symptoms such as a fever, lethargy and lose of appetite.

What Causes Demodectic Mange?

One of the things that need to be stressed is that demodectic mange is not caused by unhygienic living conditions or environmental contamination. It is also not contagious as most pets already have demodectic mites.

Demodectic mange is caused by poor immune system functioning and is most common in canine puppies with under-developed immune systems or older pets with suppressed immune systems. Corticosteroids or other immune-suppressing drugs have also been implicated as a possible cause for demodectic mange as well as other types of mange caused by demodex mites.

Diagnosing Demodectic Mange

If you suspect that your pet may have demodectic mange then a veterinary examination is necessary. As the mites are too small to be seen with the naked eye, a skin scraping or biopsy is often done before an accurate diagnosis can be made.

The cause for the weakened immune system may also be explored, especially in older pets where mange is often a sign that an immune-compromising condition is at hand. Your vet may test for illnesses such as Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, cancer, and heartworm disease in dogs, or Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) in cats.

Help for Demodectic Mange

In many cases, the underlying cause of the immune suppression or deficiency must be treated in conjunction with the treatment for mange. Conventional treatments of mange usually take the form of chemical based lotions, dips and shampoos.

Many of these treatments contain chemicals such as benzoyl peroxide, amitraz and ivermectin, however, it must be noted that these chemicals can be very harsh and cause a number of unwanted side-effects. In cases where demodectic mange is severe or generalized over large areas of the body, antibiotics are often prescribed to guard against serious infection. Antibiotics should not be used unless necessary as they tend to weaken the immune system.

More Information on Demodectic Mange

Tips for demodectic mange
  • Demodectic mange cannot survive without a host and therefore can only survive on your pet. It is therefore not necessary to treat bedding or kennel area of infected dogs.
  • Keep your dog in good health. A balanced diet, adequate exercise, vaccinations and regular visits to the vet will help keep your pet in good health and may go a long way in preventing immune-related conditions.
  • Feed your pet a high quality balanced diet that contains all the necessary nutrients for a strong, healthy immune system.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids can be given as a supplement to help boost the immune system as and encourage skin health.
  • Do not let any skin conditions get out of control. Conditions such as mange can spread quickly and can become serious if not treated swiftly.
  • Avoid giving your dog harsh pharmaceutical drugs whenever you can. Drugs such as Cortisone and frequent use of antibiotics suppress the immune system and can contribute to conditions such as demodectic mange.
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