Demodectic Mange in Dogs: Diagnostics, Causes, Treatment

The complexity of this insidious disease lies in the fact that dog breeders are not always able to quickly identify the moment of infection with Demodectic mange, and its consequences can be very serious. Microscopic mites (demodex) live in the hair follicles on the dog's skin and, when the body is weakened, begin their harmful effect. If treatment is not started on time, the infected animal can suffer greatly and even die.

What is demodicosis?

Small parasitic mites called "Demodex canis" provoke this skin disease in dogs. The appearance of the pest resembles a worm with several legs and jaws. A favorite habitat is located in the surface layers of the epidermis, sebaceous and sweat glands. About 200 mites can coexist in one hair follicle at once.

Dead cells of the epidermis are food for young individuals of Demodex. The main harm to the canine body is caused by adult mites, which eat the outer layer of the skin. As a result of such vital activity, the protective layer is destroyed, and the dog's skin is covered with wounds.

The disease itself has two different names:

  • veterinarians call it "demodicosis";
  • common people "red scabies".

Types of skin rashes and forms of focal lesions

Individuals of Demodex often live on the body of all animals and do not cause harm. However, when immunity is weakened in dogs, the parasitic mite can manifest itself in a completely different way. The following forms or lesions appear on the animal's body:

  • red, purple or blackening bald patches;
  • large acne eruptions that destroy the integrity of the skin;
  • in long-haired dogs, the hair sticks together at the roots or gets tattered;
  • scales and blisters appear on a bald spot;
  • the ears are covered with a rash.

The disease is divided into several forms, depending on the degree of skin lesions:

  1. Localized (focal) type refers to the mildest form. In another way it is called "scaly" demodicosis. The  form is due to the manifestations of skin rashes in dogs during pregnancy and childbirth. Redness can appear behind the ears, around the eyes, or on the dog's neck or abdomen. 
  2. In total, from 3 to 5 lesions in the form of scales or acne that cause itching can form. Up to 90% of cases, the animal can heal on its own, so veterinarians do not carry out specialized treatment. But, if the localized form becomes complicated and deterioration occurs, then you cannot do without the help of drugs.
  3. Generalized stage of the development of the disease occurs after its focal form in the event of a subsequent deterioration in the health of the pet. Ticks spread throughout the body, gnawing through tunnels under the skin and even infecting internal organs. But, first of all, large lesions appear on the skin in the form of scabs and swelling. A fetid smell of putrefaction emanates from the animal. If you do not start treatment immediately, then in a couple of months all hair from the body will fall out, and the skin is completely covered with scabs and wounds. Due to the lack of epithelium, due to which the mite parasitizes on the upper cover of the skin, the parasites begin to gnaw through the passages to the internal organs and affect the digestive and cardiovascular systems and other internal organs. The dog has vomiting , diarrhea , convulsions .The disease can go away on its own only in animals under 4 years of age. However, the older the pet, the worse its prognosis.
  4. The juvenile form of the disease is typical for puppies under one year old. Ticks are inherited from a sick mother. They parasitize around the eyes and on the paws, where the skin begins to peel off profusely. In puppies, the immune system is just being formed, so they will not be able to overcome the disease on their own until a certain age.

Symptoms of demodicosis

Veterinarians describe different signs for each form of this dermatological disease. The main symptoms of skin parasite activation are:

  • itching;
  • redness or peeling on the body of the animal with profuse hair loss;
  • multiple appearance of cracks, swollen acne, blisters or purulent wounds.

Diagnosis of one form or another of the disease is carried out depending on the age and severity of the animal's condition. In dogs, the following obvious signs are examined:

1. With localized demodicosis, minor bald patches are found on the head, limbs or other places with a thickened skin. The surface of the lesion may be wrinkled and have a grayish or reddish-red tint. In this place, there is strong peeling, the presence of light pink nodular pustules is recorded, which eventually begin to fester. In a neglected form, after a long time, intoxication and exhaustion occurs in dogs, leading to death.

2. The generalized form of the disease is diagnosed in the presence of extensive baldness throughout the skin of the animal. At this stage, the deep subcutaneous tissues of the dogs and internal organs are affected.

Signs of severe intoxication appear:

  • convulsions;
  • weakness;
  • vomiting or foaming from the mouth of an animal;
  • profuse salivation;
  • impaired coordination of movements.

In the presence of these signs of the disease, the dog needs to be treated urgently, otherwise it will face death.

3. Asymptomatic demodicosis is rarely diagnosed when examining an animal. The disease can only be detected by laboratory examination of the animal. This form of the disease occurs in dogs if the animal has strong immunity and the parasite does not harm it. But if the pet weakens, then the tick can show its negative activity at any time.

Diagnosis of demodicosis

When diagnosing demodicosis, the following examinations are carried out:

  1. For laboratory analysis, scrapings are made from foci of skin lesions of the animal with deep pressure until a drop of blood appears.
  2. Computer hair trichoscopy is performed.
  3. Hereditary factors are studied for the presence of a disease in the father and mother of the animal.
  4. Reveal the clinical symptoms of demodicosis.

After receiving the test results, the veterinarian makes a final diagnosis and prescribes treatment.

Treatment of demodicosis

The owner of an infected dog needs patience, as the process of treating parasitic mites is long and difficult. The veterinarian will prescribe medications according to the individual characteristics of the animal.

There is no single methodology that helps absolutely everyone in the treatment of generalized demodicosis. In addition, other concomitant infectious diseases join, so self-medication can only aggravate the situation.

The dog's health should be based on 2 directions:

  1. Complete elimination of the parasitic mite population from larvae to adults with the help of drugs.
  2. Elimination of the factors that provoked the outbreak of the disease (including strengthening the weakened immune system, improving the conditions of keeping the dog, controlling the diet, etc.).

When improvement occurs, do not relax, because the insidiousness of demodicosis can nullify all your successes. Therefore, the pet needs constant monitoring so that the disease does not have a relapse.

Is demodicosis contagious in dogs?

Demodectic mange affects not only dogs, but also people. However, the owner of the pet cannot get infected from a sick animal, since the parasites of Demodex canis, injai, mange live on the body of dogs , which are not dangerous to humans.

Human infection can only occur from a sick person who is a carrier of Demodex folliculorum ticks . Therefore, canine parasites cannot cause skin rashes in their owner or veterinarian examining and treating the dog.

Disease prevention

It is easier to prevent any disease than to cure it later. If the owners of the dogs adhere to the recommendations of veterinarians aimed at preventing demodicosis, then they will protect their pets from this insidious disease. The set of preventive rules includes the following items:

  1. Protect your dog from communicating with stray animals.
  2. Give your dog good grooming and nutrition.
  3. Regular hygiene, washing toys and pet bedding will eliminate pathogenic microflora that promotes the reproduction of ticks.
  4. Timely vaccination, antiparasitic and anti- blanket measures will strengthen the animal's immunity.
  5. The health of the animal will not deteriorate if it is given vitamin and mineral supplements to food in the right amount.
  6. Examination of animals before mating will help avoid the occurrence of disease in the offspring.
  7. Before purchasing a pet, study its hereditary diseases that its parents were ill with.

Give your dog enough attention and follow preventative guidelines to avoid this dangerous disease. And if it has already shown its harmful effects, then be patient and follow all the recommendations of veterinarians. The disease will surely recede, and your friend will delight you for a long time.


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