Does My Dog Have Mange?
Is It Mange?
The only way to tell for sure if your dog has mange is to take him in to your regular vet.
- His skin will be examined
- His skin will be tape tested to check for the presence of sarcoptes mites.
- His skin will be scraped to check for demodex mites.
If the skin scraping is positive, and your dog is diagnosed with demodectic (red) mange, you will have a lot of work ahead of you but at least mange is something that can be treated. When my first dog was diagnosed, demodectic mange was often a death sentence; there were few medications that worked and many dogs continued to get worse. My dog was an accidental product of a backyard breeder (now she would be called a designer dog) but her immune system must have allowed her to fight off the disease.
What about the disease now?
What is going to be done with your dog?
What is demodectic mange?
This is a skin disease caused by a mite known as Demodex canis. It is normal to find a few in most dogs; for some reasons certain dogs develop infections and the mites spread through skin and maybe even through the internal organs.
What does it look like?
When the disease started out, it was probably just red skin, probably around the eyes and mouth, and you may not even have noticed it. As it grew worse hair started falling out in patches, especially around the face and the eyes, and sometimes on the body or the legs. If you didn´t start treatment at that point, the hair loss got worse and your dogs follicles filled up with pus which became infected.
A dog with a severe skin infection stinks and almost no one can ignore the disease at that point.
If the lesions are really old and the skin is thick, like old demodex infections on the feet, your vet may even need to do a skin biopsy to find the mites.
Usually it is found when the irritated areas of the skin are scraped and examined under a microscope.
How do I treat it?
Most of the mild cases of demodex will get better even without any treatment, or with some of the ointments that are sold for this disease. If the mange has already become so severe that it has led to skin infections, however, it needs to be treated more aggressively.
The first treatment recommended is usually a pesticide called amitraz. It is mixed up and poured on the dog as a dip, at least until the skin is healed up and no more mites are found on the skin scraping, and then at least another month after that. The dog needs to be bathed with benzoyl peroxide before the amitraz is poured on. The amitrax has several side effects, and even then about a third of the cases will not be cured and will need another therapy.
The next treatment is ivermectin, but this drug is so cheap now that I think it should be tried first. The dog gets 0.3-0.6 mg/kg orally, and may need to be treated for 3 to 8 months. The dose should be started low and built up slowly. If the dog shows any side effects (excessive salivating, vomiting, ataxia) then an alternative treatment needs to be tried.
Since the ivermectin cannot be used in some dogs (like Collies and others sensitive to ivermectin), they can also be given milbemycin (Interceptor) tablets at 1mg/kg, orally, every day. The dose can even be doubled if there are no side effects (salivation, vomiting, weakness) and the dog is not healed. This is an expensive treatment though so if your dog cannot be treated with the ivermectin the amitraz should still be tried first.
This is the best ivermectin product available for treating demodectic mange in a small or medium sized dog. If you have any trouble figuring out the dose, leave me a message at the bottom of this article (with your dog´s weight) and I will reply right away.
Can I prevent it from spreading to my other dogs?
Demodex is not really contagious like sarcoptic mange. If you have several dogs and only one of them was diagnosed with demodex, though, there is a possibility that some transfer can occur. You can allow them to have regular contact but just keep the healthy dog in good shape. Make sure she is eating good homemade food and keep her skin in shape by giving omega acids and antioxidants.
Will demodectic mites spread to me?
Demodex mites only live in dog skin, and really only cause problems in some dogs. Hug your dog all you want—the disease will not spread to you, and your dog will thank you for the extra attention.
© 2012 Dr Mark