What is Demodicosis (Red Mange)?
Demodicosis, also known as red mange, is an infestation of the dog by a variety of Demodex mite. Although they are found in a dog’s normal bodily flora, they are usually kept in check by the immune system. Immature or impaired immune systems may allow the mites to flourish and cause thickened scaly patches on the skin. Small, localized patches can be treated relatively simply, but Demodex infestations that have spread over extensive areas of the skin require more persistent and aggressive treatments to eliminate.
Demodicosis is the inflammation and thickening of the skin due to an overproliferation of a species of Demodex mite living naturally on your dog’s skin.
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Symptoms of Demodicosis (Red Mange) in Dogs
Most of the symptoms of this infestation show up on the skin of the canine that is affected.
- Loss of hair
- Scaly or leathery appearance
- Sensitive to touch
- Unpleasant odor
- Warm to the touch
In cases where the mites have invaded the lymph nodes, you may see additional symptoms such as fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
Demodicosis, also known as red mange, is caused by a species of Demodex parasite. Most dogs have some of these parasites living in the fauna on their bodies, generally in the hair follicles. The adult form of this parasite is shaped like a tiny cigar sporting eight short legs, although the larvae only have six legs. Three types of mite can contribute to this condition in dogs.
Demodex canis - This is the most common form of Demodex and is just 40-300 microns long.
Demodex cornei - This type of Demodex parasite is the smallest of these species to inhabit dogs, and are only half the length of the Demodex canis.
Demodex injai - This variety is both the largest form of Demodex and the most recently found; outbreaks of the injai variety of Demodex are usually limited to the back and the hindquarters of the dog.
Causes of Demodicosis (Red Mange) in Dogs
The Demodex mites that cause this disorder are tiny cigar-shaped lifeforms with eight short legs that are generally acquired from mother dogs to puppies during nursing or may be transferred during other physical contact, and they are often found among the other standard fauna on healthy dogs. The canine immune system usually keeps the mange in check, however, dogs with immature or compromised immune systems may develop this disorder. The susceptibility in puppies does appear to have a genetic component and dogs that have a history of developing demodicosis, as well as their parents and siblings, should not be bred.
Diagnosis of Demodicosis (Red Mange) in Dogs
When you bring your animal into the veterinarian's clinic, a sample of the skin affected by the mange will be taken for a process known as cutaneous cytology, where the skin sample is examined microscopically. The Demodex mites are easy to see on most skin samples with a microscope, and when coupled with the skin reaction, diagnosis becomes elementary. Younger dogs who contract this due to the simple immaturity of the immune system often outgrow the problem when they reach maturity, however, adult dogs who acquire this disorder should be thoroughly evaluated as this disorder may be an early indicator that the immune system has been compromised.
Diseases and disorders that can lead to an overgrowth of these parasites can include Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, and cancer, among others. Nutritional history and medications will often be re-evaluated at this time, as well as disorders due to dietary deficiencies or allergies, which can also make the skin more prone to developing this type of mange.
Treatment of Demodicosis (Red Mange) in Dogs
Localized symptoms of demodicosis often resolve spontaneously but may also be treated with topical insecticides to kill the mites and hasten healing. Generalized demodicosis, which has spread over the entire body requires more aggressive therapy to gain control of it. Medicated baths, usually containing a pesticide known as Amitraz, are most commonly used to kill the mites. These are generally repeated approximately every two weeks for at least six treatments, or until no mites are found after two successive treatments. Certain dogs are sensitive to the chemicals and may develop sedation or nausea. Canines that show these symptoms should have the dip reduced to half strength.
Another alternative is to administer one of the dewormers Ivermectin or Milbemycin orally. These medications are often successful in treating red mange, but because of the high dosage required to eliminate the infestation they can be dangerous in their own right and should only be administered under close veterinary supervision. Ivermectin is particularly dangerous to Collie breeds and Collie mix dogs and should be avoided for Collies and similar breeds.
Recovery of Demodicosis (Red Mange) in Dogs
Prognosis is generally quite good for localized infestations of demodicosis, often being easily eliminated. Generalized demodicosis can be challenging to treat effectively. Recurrences of the disorder are common as are bacterial infections, and treatment is generally a lengthy process. If antibiotics are prescribed to help treat a bacterial infection, it is important to continue the antibiotics for the full measure of time that your veterinarian recommends in order to avoid a return of the infection.
Supplements to stimulate the immune system may help stem the infestation by these mites, and there are a number of safe herbal remedies that can contribute to healing the skin, such as lavender, almond, and neem oils, and frequent oatmeal baths. Steroid and corticosteroid treatments for red mange should be avoided as they suppress the immune system, worsening the problem.
Demodicosis (Red Mange) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have a 11 month old German Shorthaired Pointer. I have been taking my dog to the vet for her issues for the past 3 months. I took her in when I first saw sign of small patches of hair loss on her head. After a skin scraping was done they didn’t see any mites and said it was allergies. A month later it just kept getting worse so they prescribed antibiotics and gave another allergy shot. A week later she started to break out in several pustules on her belly and a sore on her mouth so I took her back in. They just gave her an allergy shot and said that was it. A few days later it got worse and they gave her antibiotics. After 3 days she was broken out in these terrible sores all over her neck, chin, and other random spots on her body. When I went back in they said it was staph hypersensitivity and put her on a high dose of steroids and gave me medicated shampoo to use on her. A week later she still was breaking out even more in this massive sores so I took her in and they took biopsies. When the results came back they said it was demodectic mange. They prescribed a NexGaurd tablet and Ivomec and said she should be good with that for 2 weeks. So since her immune system is probably suppressed and in her case the steroid shot may not have helped her with the mites, should she be getting some kind of dips, baths, or topical treatment to help rid the mites or will the Ivomec do it on its own?
My vet said my pup had demodecosis. He also said this was inherited fr either the dam or the sire. Is this possible? From what ive read, demodecosis is cause by mites (parasites). Pls enlighten tnx.
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I have been dealing with a similar issue. In November of 2017, she became very itchy and I noticed these scabs on her upper neck and on her back which lead to hair loss in those particular areas. Not any bigger than a dime. She then broke out with these little red pustules/pimples that spread like wildfire all over her belly which I would assume was because of the itching. We were back and forth to the doctors office and they prescribed cephalexin. It helped with the bacterial infection however, as soon as she stopped the antibiotics, they would appear again. We went through 3 courses of antibiotics from December to February. Our Vet thinks she has allergies so we switched her food to grain free, give antibacterial/antifugal baths and he put her on Apoquel. It worked and her skin has some what cleared up but within the past few days, she has broke out again with the red bumps on her belly and the scabs on her neck and back. Could it be that she has mange and the bacterial infection is caused from that?
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