Demodex in puppies can be a serious problem. It is caused by a parasite called Demodex that is commonly found on dogs of all types. It can become a problem in puppies and young dogs with a weaker immune system where the dog will develop symptoms of Mange. We’ll take a look at what Demodex is, what causes it, and some symptoms and treatment.
What is Demodex
Demodex may begin as a scaly, rough area with some hair loss appearing in localized areas on the face, neck and front legs. The skin condition is also known as Red Mange because the irritated areas may first appear pink or red; however, as the condition advances the skin usually turns dark.
In later stages of the disease, larger areas are affected and this is termed generalized Demodex. The skin becomes thickened, greasy, and scabby with a distinctive odor. Bacterial infections can set in causing itchiness so that the dog scratches until the skin bleeds. Bacteria then can enter the bloodstream, affecting internal organs. At this point, the dog may seem lethargic or weak. Eventually, death can result from sepsis.
Cause of Demodex
Dogs, horses, people, and other animals have species-specific mites present on normal, healthy skin. It is believed that newborn puppies contract Demodex mites from the mother at birth and in their early weeks before their immune system is developed. In a healthy body, the immune system prevents the mites from becoming a problem.
A younger dog with an underdeveloped immune system or an older animal with a weakened immune system due to age or illness can develop Red Mange as the mites get out of control in the hair follicles and oil glands. Rarely will an adult dog develop Demodex for the first time. It is often the consequence of another illness.
Diagnosing Demodectic Mange
The veterinarian will probably do a microscopic exam of a skin scraping. If a large amount of Demodex mites and typical symptoms are noted, then Demodectic Mange is likely. In some cases where the skin has become thickened and no mites are found, a skin biopsy may be needed to identify the problem.
Demodectic Mange Symptoms
If you are concerned about Demodex in your puppy or adult dog you should keep an eye out for the following symptoms and contact your vet if you notice any.
- Patches of hair missing, particularly around the face, nose, or eyes.
- Itching or rubbing areas of skin.
- Redness or inflammation of the skin.
- Crusting, scabs, or sores on the skin.
Is Demodectic Mange Contagious?
This form of Mange is not passed from dogs to humans or to cats. Although it is not considered necessary to isolate a Demodex dog from other dogs as in the case of Sarcoptic Mange, there are various theories about whether the mites can be passed from one dog to another. There have been cases where several dogs in one household break with Demodex, however other circumstances may factor in. Sometimes dogs from the same genetic line will present with Demodex so a genetic link is also possible. Dogs with generalized Demodex should not be bred.
Treatment of Red Mange in Puppies
There are a few options for treatment of Demodectic Mange. Amitraz is a parasiticidal drug available as a product called Mitaban dip. There are Preventic collars and a newer topical product called Promeris for flea and tick prevention that is usually effective in treating Demodex. Except for the collars, these are available through your veterinarian only. Amitraz can be dangerous, as well as ineffective, if not used in strict compliance with the product and veterinarian instructions. A few dog owners have reported side effects.
Sometimes Interceptor is used to treat Demodex. The disadvantage of this one is the expense. Ivermectin has also been used off-label in the past.
Your veterinarian may also look for and treat other underlying conditions such as any secondary infection or diseases that can suppress the immune system. The immune system should be fortified with a high-quality food and supplements. Puppy Mange treatment is often a lengthy process.
There are also some readily available preventative products you can try like Demodex Mange Shampoo, a Natural Dog Mange Relief Treatment, or a Lime Sulfur Dip. But it is important to seek your vet’s advice before any treatment.
Prognosis of Demodex
A few cases of Demodex can disappear on their own as the puppy matures while some cases may be difficult or impossible to cure. For some puppies, intermittent bouts can be a problem throughout life but most recover and are never bothered again.
Protect and treat Demodex in puppies by being vigilant with their health and regularly checking for symptoms and issues.
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