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Canine Demodicosis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

4 minutes
Canine Demodicosis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Last update: 30 September, 2018

Have you ever heard about mange, scabies, or canine demodicosis? This disease is characterized by hair loss and skin inflammation. If it’s not treated at an early stage, it can cause serious infections and itching.

However, this disease is not contagious to other dogs or humans because it’s only developed by animals who are predisposed to it.

Mites that cause canine demodicosis

Demodex are mites that are often found living in the hair follicles of a dog’s skin. When this parasite reproduces excessively, it causes fur loss and visible skin inflammation on the animal.

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Do you know what really causes canine demodicosis? One reason these mites develop into canine demodicosis is due to the dog’s immune system not being able to control the mites.

However, it is usually a hereditary disease. Therefore, it’s best if animals with this condition don’t reproduce because they are more genetically prone to several diseases, both hereditary and ones they can acquire.

Likewise, stress is one of the main reasons canine demodicosis can develop in an animal. Therefore, it’s important to pay close attention to this condition in order to determine if this disease is related to any change of routine or environment.

Most likely it’s related to the high-stress levels that were caused by a sudden change in routine, a new addition to the family, a death, etc.

Diagnosing this condition is fairly simple for veterinarians. Although all the clinical signs give a high degree of certainty, a veterinarian will also take a skin sample just to be sure.

Canine demodicosis causes hair loss, skin inflammation, and in more severe cases, skin lesions in dogs. It’s  important to find the main cause of the disease in situations where the animal is experiencing stress.

How canine demodicosis appears

There are three main ways in which canine demodicosis appears on a dog:

  • Localized: You will see hairless patchy areas, especially on the face or around the eyes of the animal. This disease usually goes away on its own as soon as the dog’s immune system starts to fight it off.
  • Generalized: Hairless lesions are all over the body, especially on the animal’s face. The skin will feel very oily to the touch and give off a strong and unpleasant odor. There may also be scabs or pustules that bleed. Some dogs may also have a fever, feel lethargic, and experience a loss of appetite.
  • Pododemodicosis: Scabies only appears on the feet and paws. It is also accompanied by secondary injuries that, in general, are difficult to cure. This is the most resistant form of the disease since the mites are located very deep in the skin. Therefore, treatments can’t easily get rid of them.

Canine Demodicosis Treatment

If you suspect your dog might have canine demodicosis, then you should take him immediately to your veterinarian. The faster it can be diagnosed and treated, the faster the recovery will be. The veterinarian will most likely recommend treatment that’s intended to reduce the number of mites on the skin and controlling any secondary infections.

The first thing the vet will do is examine the affected area and directly treat any types of injuries. In most cases, a vet will also give antibiotics to the animal.

Most likely, the veterinarian will recommend baths with a type of insecticide, such as amitraz. Once the treatment has reached a certain period of time, the vet will run another skin test to see if the number of Demodex have decreased.

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Also, remember that in order to prevent the disease from reappearing, you should find out what’s causing your dog’s stress and his poor immune system. Otherwise, it’s very likely that your dog will end up with canine demodicosis again.

Some tips to prevent canine demodicosis

Besides specific treatments, to minimize the chances of your dog contracting this disease, you should:

  • Treat your dog for parasites internally and externally. You should also vaccinate your dog periodically, according to your veterinarian’s instructions.
  • You should give your dog quality food based on his traits (size, age, breed, etc.)
  • It’s a good idea to spay or neuter your dog. This prevents all the stress — for both male and female — that’s caused when a female is in heat.

Last, but not least, animals with canine demodicosis should not reproduce because canine demodicosis is usually hereditary disease. You should also avoid any corticosteroids or immune suppressant drugs while treating your animal for canine demodicosis.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.