Demodectic mange is a skin disease caused by several types of Demodex mites, which are external parasites not visible to the naked eye. These mites exist in small numbers in the hair follicles of most pets because they are passed from the mother following birth. They usually have a peaceful relationship with the pet’s immune system, but when a pet’s immune system is compromised and can no longer control the mite population, they multiply and demodectic mange results.
Symptoms and Forms of Demodectic Mange
The most common symptoms of demodectic mange are hair loss, painful sores, and scabbing. Secondary bacterial infections caused by the disease can also lead to uncomfortable itching. Demodectic mange is quite common in dogs -- especially puppies -- but it is rare in cats.
Demondecitc mange can either be localized or generalized:
- Localized demodectic mange occurs when the mites are confined to one or two small areas of the body. This type of mange is very common in young pets, and most cases resolve spontaneously with no need for treatment. Only around 10% of pets with localized demodectic mange will develop generalized demodectic mange.
- Generalized demodectic mange affects large areas of a pet’s body and often leads to secondary infections. In young pets under one year of age, the disease may resolve without any treatment. In older pets, it may point to a more serious underlying health problem (such as cancer, hypothyroidism, or heartworm disease) that is allowing the spread of the disease and requires treatment.
Demodectic Mange Treatment Options
Treatment for demodectic mange will depend on your pet’s overall health and whether the disease is localized or generalized. Your veterinarian will diagnose the condition by taking a skin scraping and then examining the mites under a microscope.
If your veterinarian suspects that an underlying medical condition is to blame, that condition will be treated and the mange may clear up. If not, or in persistent cases, treatment steps may include:
- Bathing your pet with a medicated benzoyl peroxide shampoo, such as Pyoben. The shampoo should remain on the pet for 10 minutes while it works to remove skin scales and open the pores. Rinse and then dry the pet completely.
- Using a dip following your veterinarian’s instructions. Amitraz (brand name Mitaban) is the only FDA-approved miticide for dogs. A lime sulfur dip is commonly used on cats. Allow the dip to dry on your pet and do not let your pet get wet between treatments. Most dips are repeated until the skin scrapes taken by your veterinarian test negative for mange.
- If the mange does not resolve with the above steps, your veterinarian may prescribe a broad-spectrum antiparasitic medication such as Ivermectin (Heartgard) or Milbemycin. Use of these medications should be monitored closely.
- Topical preparations used to treat ear mites, such as Tresaderm, and topical ointments containing benzoyl peroxide may be recommended to treat and heal particular spots (especially in localized cases).
- Secondary skin infections are treated with antibiotics.
Demodex mites can move between animals and linger on bedding, furniture, toys, and collars. If one animal in the house is affected, all animals should be treated, and the household should be cleaned. Pets with chronic mange should not be bred as the mites are likely to be passed on to the offspring.
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DIY Dog Dry Skin Treatment (and Handy Medications)