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What is Walking Dandruff?

Walking dandruff is an infestation by a parasite in the Cheyletiella family. Although dogs are most often infected by Cheyletiella yasguri, other mites in this family may affect your animal, particularly dogs that share their homes with cats or rabbits, their preferred hosts.

The Cheyletiella mites also flourish in overcrowded facilities and are easily spread from animal to animal. This condition causes the skin to flake and peel, leaving it swollen and itchy, and the movement of the mites may even be visible to the naked eye.

An infestation caused by the Cheyletiella mite can cause the skin to itch and flake. It is known as walking dandruff due to the movement of the flakes as the mites crawl beneath them.

Symptoms of Walking Dandruff in Dogs

This condition gets its name from characteristic dandruff-like scales that form on the skin and the visible movement of the mites on the skin. The mites may cause your dog to exhibit excessive scratching, biting, or rubbing of affected areas. Other signs of infestation can include:

  • Hair loss
  • Red, bumpy rash
  • Reddened skin
  • Swollen skin

Types

There are four types of mites that tend to infest dogs including the the Cheyletiella yasguri, also known as surface mites. Mites that frequently affect dogs include:

  • Cheyletiella yasguri - These skin mites affect the back on dogs and can cause flaking, scabbing, and itching, but when Cheyletiella mites jump to humans, they affect the arms, trunk, and buttocks

  • Demodex canis - The most common mite to affect dogs, lives in the hair follicle of the animal; they are usually harmless unless the immune system is suppressed and they breed out of control 
  • Otodectes cynotis - These mites, also known as ear mites, are more common in cats than in dogs and tend to be restricted to the ear area

  • Sarcoptes scabiei - This variety of mite crawls along the surface of the skin, burrowing into it to lay their eggs; this produces intensely itchy rashes that can affect any area of the skin
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Causes of Walking Dandruff in Dogs

This disorder is a type of mange caused by a mite called the Cheyletiella mite. The Cheyletiella mite that causes walking dandruff utilized dogs, cats, and rabbits as hosts, although each host has a slightly different species of mite that feeds on it. The mites that make up the Cheyletiella family and their hosts include: 

  • Cheyletiella blakei- Cats

  • Cheyletiella parasitivorax- Common rabbits

  • Cheyletiella romerolagi- Volcano rabbits
  • Cheyletiella strandtmanni- Hares

  • Cheyletiella yasguri- Dogs

The mites that affect cats and dogs are also known to occasionally jump to human hosts.

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Diagnosis of Walking Dandruff in Dogs

When you bring your dog into the veterinarian's clinic, the visit will most likely start with a general physical examination, and in the majority of cases, the movement of the parasites on the skin will be revealed. Sightings of the mites and the symptoms they cause will generally prompt the examiner to use either a flea comb or a piece of tape to collect some of the mites.

In some cases, a sample of the affected skin will be collected for a process known as cutaneous cytology, where the skin sample is examined microscopically. This will not only identify which mites are affecting your animal but will also help to determine how extensive the infestation is. The Cheyletiella yasguri mites are typically visible moving on the skin with the naked eye and relatively easy to identify on most skin samples with a microscope, and when coupled with the skin reaction, diagnosis becomes elementary.

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Treatment of Walking Dandruff in Dogs

Infestations of Cheyletiella mites can be treated by using a few different methods, but all of them involve treating all of the animals in the house. Topically, this usually involves clipping of long or thick hair bathing designed to remove the scales, followed by the application of a miticide. Topical miticides can be applied using a rinse, a dip, or a simple lotion or ointment, and the amount and frequency of the treatment will depend on which specific medications and methods are used. Medications such as Milbemycin and Ivermectin can be administered orally, and Ivermectin may also be employed by injecting it under the skin. It is crucial to inform your veterinarian if your dog has any herding breeds in its family history as Ivermectin is toxic to these breeds. Breeds that are more susceptible to Ivermectin toxicity may include: 

  • Australian Shepherd
  • Collie
  • German Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Shetland Sheepdog

It may take several weeks and multiple reapplications to fully eliminate the mites.

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Recovery of Walking Dandruff in Dogs

Cheyletiella mites are highly contagious and can hop between dogs, cats, rabbits, and even humans. For this reason, it is important to treat all of the animals in the household if any of them are diagnosed with walking dandruff. Any bedding that has been in contact with the animals should be laundered, and carpets and upholstery should be vacuumed to prevent further infestations. This will need to be repeated periodically throughout the weeks of the treatment process. As humans are not the parasite’s normal host, the infestations are generally short and treating the affected animals, and environment usually provides resolution.

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Walking Dandruff Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Rottweiler

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9 weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Scaly And Flaky Skin With Itching

I got my puppy 2 weeks back and she was doing fine but she started to have itching in her back and when i look at it, it was flaky bumps on the skin and seems dandruffs like, I donot know what to do as I donot want to take ger to emergency as i cannot afford it right now. Please help me here.

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Puppies can have skin problems due to parasites, bacterial infections, or fungal infection. None of those seem to be an emergency, and you should be able to have your puppy seen by a regular veterinarian when they open up at regular hours. There are parasites that actually look like dandruff, so they will be able to look at her skin, see what might be causing this, and get treatment for her. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 7, 2020

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Nala

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Rottweiler

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2 years

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

My dog has flakes on her skin. She is doing a lot of scratching, which is not the norm for her. It seems that all of this happened when put her in doggy hotel she iras on vacation. At this time I cannot afford to take her to the vet since I was just laid off

Nov. 25, 2017

Nala's Owner

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2 Recommendations

Make sure that Nala is up to date on flea and tick prevention, use a spot on medication like Frontline (fipronil) or Advantage (imidacloprid and moxidectin) on her. Also, scaly itchy skin may be caused by some external irritant, allergies or another skin condition so bathing Nala in a shampoo with benzoyl peroxide shampoo (before the flea and tick prevention) may also be beneficial to cover a few bases. If you have no success with this, then you would need to visit your Veterinarian regardless of cost and circumstance for a closer look. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 26, 2017

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Zelda

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Blue Heeler-Shepard (Texas Heeler)

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5 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itching; Sores; Visible Mites

After my last trip to the vet I am in tears! My poor pupper cannot stop itching, she cant sleep, shes got sores, she cant even concentrate during training! DIET: Her vet said the itching was likely allergies, to chicken or something else I had been feeding her, and I immediately started switching her to a limited diet food, hypo-allergenic for all ages. MEDS: She will be receiving her last boosters and her first rabies shot in 2 weeks, up to date on all shots. I treated her at home with flea medication within days of bringing her home, and have continued to treat her monthly with the same medication. I use an anti itch ointment on her sores and red bumpy areas, her ears, stomach, and legs. I also have used a medicated spray for itch relief on her hotspots. I do have oral Benadryl tablets on hand for her but have not administered any yet. GROOMING: I have only given her baths as needed, but I am unsure if I should be bathing her more, I clean her genitals and bum, face, paws, and affected (sores and red bumpy areas) with plain warm water, and I use a hypo-allergenic coconut puppy shampoo as needed, when she is smelly. I brush her with both a bristle brush and a toothed brush. EXERCISE: We walk every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and I give her lots of challenges and toys to keep her distracted and busy. History that I know of: I was recently informed, by the person who gave Zelda to me, that her own 4 dogs, 1 pig, and 3 rabbits had to be treated for mites, and she confirmed that the pup was confined with these animals for a number of days and likely ate a bit of their feces as well. The vet seemed unconcerned with this when I explained it. Basically... I have done everything in my power to ease my puppys suffering, and have failed. So I am ready to treat her with store bought medicine. I am concerned about her having sensitivities to certain medications used to treat mites so I am looking for advice. I think probably a shampoo would be best, are there any concerns with those being used on herding breeds, like oral Ivermectin or Milbemycin? I really dislike that my vet is acting like theres an underlying problem when its visibly apparent and the dog meets every criteria for having mites, I just want to give my little girl some relief already!

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HumanHostNOTOnADog

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Mutt

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27 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Pain
Biting
Edema
Heart Pain
Kidney Pain
Cross Species
Doctors Won'T Treat
Doctors Won'T Take Samples

You need to answer the first commenter. I ALSO have walking dandruff, contracted from a cat and now I can't get rid of it SEVEN MONTHS after moving away from the home where the cat, that wasn't even mine, visited a few times. Doctors WILL NOT TREAT walking dandruff, in fact, they won't even TAKE SAMPLES since they deem it a DANGER to do so! ANSWER US! How do we TREAT this mite if doctors will not?! This mite HURTS! It cuts skin like mad and when it falls on skin or shirts and you brush against it, it FEELS LIKE A JAGGED RAZOR BLADE has touched your skin! WAKE THE HECK UP, MITES HAVE CROSSED SPECIES and can now STAY on humans! I am also fighting demodex and other mites, all of which were transmitted by a nasty landlord who didn't CARE that his pet and apartment were infested with MANY types of mites. My hair was a moving mess before I shaved it all off, but even so, I can't get rid of the mites no matter what I use or how short (or none) my hair is. These mites jump off the head and onto shirts and surfaces and REINFEST any human or animal close to them. My whole body is infested with mites - and I've been abused by several doctors, two of whom were full of mirth when they found out I had mites - didn't care, didn't treat properly and gave the wrong dosages of medications in the wrong order making these mites UNKILLABLE. Permethrin given was a JOKE to these mites. Ivermectin was not given in the correct dosage making SUPER mites.

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Not mine

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Boxer

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6 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Dandruff
Joint Pain
Burning
Swelling
Lesion
Itching
Dry Skin
Redness

I’m dealing with a cheyletiella mite infestation because of neighbor’s (Who is my boyfriends’ roommate’s girlfriend) & my boyfriend’s dogs. I’ve been dealing with symptoms for several months, having swelling, redness, burning skin, joint pain & a list of horrible symptoms that even landed me in the ER several times & was diagnose with gout at one time even. Only after my boyfriend’s dog stayed with me for a few weeks I noticed a creepy crawling feeling in my hair & found the mite! Since I have treated the dog & am still working on cleaning my home (Washing all my clothes is a chore on its own), treated my yard, & returned the dog to my boyfriend’s home which I now can’t/won’t even visit until his stubborn roommate treats for the mites. At one point I stopped being bothered with the mite & thought I had gotten rid of it, but every time I went outside I could instantly feel mites on me again. My neighbor refuses to treat her 3 dogs as well by the way, & her yard butts up right against my house. Because of & being attacked every time I go outside, I strip down naked on my porch before going inside & hose myself down with mite/lice killing sprays & alcohol before I enter my house (it try to every time, but in a rush sometimes I just can’t). I’ve now been 13days without any animal at my house but am still suffering from the mites attacking me & just last night found some in some laundry I went to steam clean (since labels say not to dry or for dry clean only etc) that actually creeped me out how many I saw in just one scarf! My question is, how long can the mites survive without an animal host? All I can find on information is that the mite can live 10days away from an host. That, & that mites can not complete their cycle on humans but still can effect & get on humans. I’m trying to figure out if I’m bringing more mites in from outside or if the mites are still alive inside & that I just need to do more cleaning & continue cleaning etc (Which I constantly am doing!). This mite infestation has cost me a fortune & no one seems to care to treat their animals or be in a rush to especially since the mite isn’t bothering them like it is me. It’s cost me near $1000 so far & is destroying my life & I fear the only way to end this madness is sue my boyfriend (Which I live in his rental house... Though he’s willing to treat his house & dog, just not his 2 roommates who both have dogs, one of his roommates is his brother. Which it’s his brother’s girlfriend who lives next door to me.) &/or sue his family (His brother/brother’s girlfriend) after sending a demand letter for them to eradicate the problem from a lawyer which if I do I will have to sue just to pay the lawyer to do that. I have limited funds being on disability & need help! So if anyone can answer my question, how long can these mites survive inside my house living off just me?!?!?!?!?

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