Canine demodicosis is an infection caused by microscopic parasitic mites, called Demodex mites, which live within dogs’ hair follicles.
These Demodex mites in dogs are passed from the mother to their babies when they are newborns, hence, they are part of the cutaneous biota, meaning they are completely normal and all dogs carry them. In most cases, your dog’s immune system helps to keep these parasites in check. However, sometimes, due to a genetic or immune disorder, these mites can get out of control and cause canine demodicosis.
Demodex mites in dogs
There are 3 different types of Demodex mites in dogs, a.k.a. demodectic mange:
Demodex canis: The most common type of mite
D cornei: Mite with a short body form
D injai: Mite with a long body form
Symptoms of Demodex mites in dogs
What do dog mites look like? Demodex mites are microscopic, so they can’t be spotted without the right equipment. At first glance, dog mites look like dandruff. If your dog is suffering from any of these symptoms, pay a visit to the vet. Unless the symptoms are substantial, they will probably take a scraping of your dog’s skin to confirm the diagnosis. Better be safe than sorry!
- Itchy, dry, and scaly skin (mites don’t cause itchiness, but infection does)
- Redness and inflammation of the affected area
- Hair loss or alopecia
- Rashes and eczema
- Rough skin
Can humans get demodicosis from dogs?
No, dogs can’t pass this disease to humans or other animals. Apparently, only mothers can pass it onto their newborn puppies (and remember, it is supposed to be like that!)
Causes of demodicosis
Senior dogs and newborn puppies, together with sick and pregnant dogs, can have a compromised immune system and might be more prone to develop demodicosis. However, genetic disorders can also be a cause of developing this condition. In fact, researchers have discovered that 56% of adult dogs with canine demodicosis had no underlying disease that compromise their immune system.
Depending on the age of development, there are two different onsets of demodicosis: juvenile, which takes place between 2 and 18 months of life and is usually localized, and adult, which occurs in senior dogs, and it tends to be generalized.
Types of demodicosis
The different types of demodicosis are divided into 3 categories, depending on the quantity and size of the lesions.
Localized: This kind of demodicosis is characterized by having 4 lesions or fewer, of a maximum of 10 inches. These lesions are usually located in the face, torso, and legs, and resolve easily, within 6 to 8 weeks. Besides, they also might resolve spontaneously: 30% to 50% of young dogs present spontaneous remission.
Generalized: The demodicosis is considered generalized when there are more than 4 skin lesions greater than 10 inches. These lesions are a bit more difficult to fight since they are spread throughout the body, but the overall prognosis is good, especially in young dogs. The good thing is dogs with generalized lesions hardly ever get this condition again since they become immune to these parasites.
Demodectic Pododermatitis: This kind of lesion only affects dogs’ paws. It is usually located between pads and toes, and it may cause a secondary infection. Since the affected area is hard-to-reach, it might be more difficult to fully cure.
Treatment of Demodex mites in dogs
The chosen treatment will depend on the severity of the disease and the dog’s overall health condition.
Localized and generalized diseases are not treated the same way. The first one often resolves spontaneously or with a topical treatment. On the other hand, generalized demodicosis usually requires anti-parasitic medications, together with anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid creams. Besides, dogs can develop a secondary bacterial infection that will need to be treated with antibiotics.
The overall prognosis is promising, especially for young puppies. However, if your dog has a suppressed immune system, it is important to check for underlying conditions, since even if they become demodicosis-free, they might be exposed to other autoimmune diseases.