Demodex mites (mange) in dogs

Health care questions and answers about puppies and dogs

What is mange?  
Questions and answers about dogs that have "mange"
Mange is a general term used to describe mite infestation in dogs, raccoons, foxes, wolves and other mammals.  Demodex mites are often referred to as mange but so are several other skin mites.  They cause itching (called pruritus), scabs, hair loss, and long term skin and coat damage.  Scabies mites burrow into the skin and are more difficult to identify than Demodex mites but demodex may be more resistant to treatment. 

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     My dog seems to have patches of hair missing and even looks like small round areas of fur have only a few hairs.  She isn't real itchy and shampooing isn't working.  
     She's about 6 months old and was like this when we got her.  Is this mange?


Answer:  Mange... what is it
     You seem to be describing a case of Demodex mites.  See the microscopic view below.  "Mange" isn't very specific for what kind of mite is causing the skin condition.  "Mange" mites called demodex can be contracted from the pup's mother even though she may show no signs of demodex (called an asymptomatic carrier).  Direct contact with another mite infested dog is possible, too.  
     Demodex, unlike sarcoptic mites, called scabies, usually does not cause itchiness or inflammation of the skin.  Most cases of demodex are diagnosed by a skin scraping and microscopic evaluation.  There are various therapies.  The doctor may do a skin fungal culture, too, to rule out "ringworm"... which is a confusing term because "ringworm" is caused by a fungus.

Doctor's Notes
     The major reason  topical flea/tick preventative seems to fail is due to the owners bathing the pet just prior to applying the product. 
Read the instructions!
Many products work from within the skin's oil layer; if you wash the oils off, then apply the medication, it will not work! 
     Most topical products are not repellants, they kill fleas and ticks on contact with skin oils.

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dog_demodex_mange dog_demodex_microscopic dog_ear_yeast
Severe demodex dermatitis Demodex... high power microscopic view Severe flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) Chronic yeast infection of ear tissue

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Go to to see a number of photos of dogs and cats with various conditions and diseases.  View a few x-rays (radiographs), surgery images and parasites, too.

My vet diagnosed demodex mites in my 3 year old Poodle and I heard that she shouldn't be bred because of the demodex mites.  
     She only has a few small crusty spots that show up on occasion so what's the big deal if it doesn't bother her that much?

This Demodex infested Chihuahua puppy did not survive.Answer:  Demodex… breeding dogs with
You may wish to contact a specialist in Veterinary Dermatology about this since there is some evidence that the immune competence against Demodex may be an inherited trait.  Your breeding bitch may not be able to transmit the genes needed for the pups to be resistant to Demodex.  As well, she may be a carrier of these mites and show no signs of Demodex but yet be able to spread it to offspring and other dogs.  You may be able to have a genetic test done that will confirm a susceptibility to being unable to mount a good defense against these mites.

     Our little Westie seems to scratch herself almost constantly.  She bites and nips at her rump, forelegs, and even between her toes and sometimes her skin even gets blood red!  Cortisone shots and pills help for a while, and antihistamines don't do anything for her.  
     We've switch brands of food four times.  Our vet whom we really like is frustrated, too, and says she has allergies and may always have this problem.  
     Isn't there anything we can do for her?

Answer:  Allergies... food... dermatitis
Although it is not possible to "cure" allergies, it is often possible to control the symptoms, especially if secondary problems are also addressed.  Optimal nutrition and supplements can be very important, too.  New medications, diagnostic methods, and therapeutic techniques are continually evolving to assist dogs with skin allergies.  About 10% of "allergies" are due to food ingredients such as beef, chicken, wheat, corn, etc.   

Suggestions:  Long term skin problems...
arrow right  Ask your veterinarian to refer you to a veterinary Dermatologist.
arrow right  Fungal infections of the skin usually are not itchy and can develop crusts such as in this Pomeranean puppy rescued from a "puppy mill".A skin fungal infection may be present in any dog with a skin disorder

arrow right  Continuous self-trauma and itching in dogs may be due to burrowing skin mites called scabies or sarcoptic mites. Frequently mistaken for “an allergy”, sarcoptic mites seldom show up in skin scrapings.
arrow right  Evaluate your dog or cat for a skin infection.  Bacterial infections are very common secondary problems to allergies and can create pruritus (itchiness), hair loss, circular crusty sores and red spots. 
arrow right  Chronic secondary yeast infections from Malassezia organisms are often overlooked and must be identified and eliminated.
arrow right   Discuss the possibility of Atopic Allergic Dermatitis with your veterinarian. Dogs of any age can become allergic to inhaled and contact allergens such as pollens, molds, house dust, dust mites.  Learn more here

Doctor's Notes

The term "MANGE" is not a precise descriptive.  In general usage it often refers to all sorts of skin rashes due to external parasites.  A mangy dog or wolf or coyote describes an animal with a ragged coat, bald areas, irritated and itchy skin.  In general "MANGE" or "RED MANGE' is due to Demodex canis skin mites.

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     Our dog seems to always bite at his tail and tries to lick and chew right where his tail meets his body.  He has little scabs and has shed his fur over his rump and it won't grow back.  
     We are treating for fleas and only see a flea once in a while so it can't be from fleas.  What is going on with him?
Answer:  FLEAS: What are they and what to do about...
     Fleas are about the size of a comma on a typed page.  They are brown or copper colored and scoot quickly across the skin.  They have no wings so do not fly but they sure can jump!  Fleas need to be combated on several fronts... where they live, where they breed, and where they feed on their dog and cat victims.  
     Some dogs have FAD... Flea Allergy Dermatitis, an extreme allergic reaction to flea saliva that trigger severe itching from the bite of even a single flea!  
     If you see an "occasional" flea think of all the fleas you aren't seeing because these little critters can be very elusive.  And even one flea can set off an allergic reaction especially in the rear half of the dog's body.    Learn more here

Flea On A Dog.. Click to see larger version
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