Demodectic Mange in Dogs


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Demodex is common infestation of canine skin with small, eight-legged, cigar-shaped mites. The mites feed off the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin. It is usually less severe than scabies and your dog will most likely be able to arrest the reproduction of the mites and repair the damage. Once they are eliminated, your dog is not likely to be afflicted with another infestation. The immune defenses will eliminate any new mites. But there are certain dogs that do not produce the immune factors that will target the destruction of the mites. Many vets believe that all dogs have a small number of demodex mites residing in their skin. It is only when the nutritional, immune or environmental stress impact the dog that the skin lesions become visible.

Can they be inherited?

The mites are not present on the fetus while it is developing from an embryo. But, if the mother has mites on her skin, they can invade the skin of the fetus after birth. Since a lot of dogs have demodex mites on the skin, and do not develop noticeable lesions, the mother might transmit the mites to the newborn pup without showing any visible signs.

Can you breed a dog that has demodex?

If the dog, female or male, has a protracted and difficult to treat demodex case, then that dog should not be used for breeding. If your dog has a localized and brief episode of demodex and has recovered, then you can consider breeding. But there are some vets who believe that if a dog displays demodectic mange, they must be removed from breeding programs.

Can you spay or neuter a young dog with demodex before the infestation clears?

Most of the dermatologists will not treat dogs with generalized demodicosis unless they have been neutered or spayed. This is so that the affected dogโ€™s offspring does not develop demodicosis. There is no benefit to not neutering or spaying a dog that is undergoing treatment. Moreover, the reproductive hormones in female dogs that are in heat or pregnant can worsen the mites and make it much more difficult to control them. However, the presence of male hormones does not make any difference in the dogโ€™s ability to control the demodex mites. A lot of vets do not treat dogs with localized demodicosis as they tend to resolve on their own. If you treat the dog, you will never get to find out whether it was a generalized case or not.

Is it transmissible between dogs?

Healthy dogs are resistant to infestations and might have mites harmlessly residing in their skin. However, it is advisable not to allow your dog to have direct physical contact with an infested dog, just to be on the safer side.

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