Demodicosis is a skin disease caused by a microscopic parasitic mite. Demodectic mites are found in small numbers in the hair follicles of most normal dogs. In dogs with demodicosis, however, these mites proliferate and large numbers inhabit the skin and hair follicles. Dogs may acquire mites from their mothers 2-3 days after birth.
Demodicosis may involve only 1 or 2 small areas of skin (localized mange) or large areas of the body (generalized mange). Juvenile-onset demodicosis occurs in dogs 3-12 months old, and the short-haired breeds are most commonly affected. Adult-onset demodicosis generally occurs in dogs more than 5 years old, and is often associated with internal disease or immune suppression. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to the generalized form and breeding these dogs is not recommended.
We typically see demodicosis occur in dogs entering puberty, although some puppies will display signs earlier. For females, the first heat cycle may trigger symptoms and even though we may be able to control the symptoms, each time the dog goes into heat, they may recur. We see a much higher incidence of demodicosis in Pitbulls than in other breeds. We strongly recommend spaying and neutering these animals since they will pass the mites to their offspring. Also, because the disease is suspected to occur in animals with poor immune systems, it is best not to breed an animal with genetic deficiencies.
Localized demodicosis is the mildest form. Usually only a few areas of hair loss on the head or front legs occur. Most dogs with the localized form recover completely.
Generalized demodicosis is serious and often difficult to treat. Large areas of the body may be affected and often the affected areas are also infected by bacteria. In these cases, the skin is red, crusty and warm, and has many pustules. It may bleed easily and have a strong, rancid odor. While most of these cases are curable, some can only be controlled and periodic re-treatment is necessary.
Demodicosis also occurs as a chronic foot infection in mature dogs.
It is extremely important that all medications and treatments are given as directed and on schedule. Please call the doctor if you cannot complete any treatments or doubt the adequacy of your treatment. IF the dog still has symptoms when the medication is finished, call and let us know. Treatment must continue until there are no symptoms.
Periodic rechecks and skin scrapings to test for the active mites are necessary. With the generalized form, bacterial cultures from the skin may be needed to determine the most effective antibiotic.
NOTIFY THE DOCTOR IF ANY OF THE FOLLOWING OCCUR:
Your dog’s sores enlarge rapidly and general skin health worsens.
Your dog’s appetite and activity level decrease.
Your dog’s condition recurs after an apparent recovery.