What is demodicosis?
In dogs, this is a parasitic mite disease causing hair loss, scaling and/or redness. The name of the mite is Demodex canis. Hair loss often starts around the eyes (giving a spectacled appearance), at the corners of the lips and on the forefeet. The mites normally live in the hair follicles.
Is this contagious?
Many dogs will be exposed to the demodex mite, but only a few will show symptoms, so it is not really contagious in that sense.
Puppies are usually exposed to the mite within hours of starting to suckle – this is though to be the main means of spread.
Are certain breeds more susceptible?
Just about any dog can fall a victim to the demodex mite, but more susceptible breeds mentioned in the literature are: Old English Sheepdog, German shepherd, Great Dane, Shar Pei, Collie, Doberman pinscher, English Bulldog, Afghan hound, Dalmation, Dachshund, Beagle and a variety of Terriers.
At what age is a dog more susceptible, and can it be treated?
Dogs under a year of age are more susceptible, they generally respond to treatment.
If only small areas are affected and very few mites are found on skin scrapings – many will resolve without treatment.
Older dogs are less commonly affected and can have a serious underlying medical condition that needs investigating early on.
There are dips, washes and topical applications that can be used, sometimes in combination.
Treatment failure is more common if a large areas of skin is affected, and/or the dog is older.
How do I know if my dog has demodex?
Firstly the clinical presentation and age of the dog may make you suspicious. To confirm demodex multiple deep skin scrapings are made, these are placed under a microscope and the search for parasites begins.
How are the scrapings made?
Without taking multiple deep scrapings the mites can easily be missed.
Scrapings that are made deep enough there should normally be a little blood at the scrape sites.
What can demodicosis be confused with?
There a multitude of diseases that can look very similar, including allergies, other parasites, skin infections.
Why is the correct diagnosis so important?
If the wrong diagnosis is made then incorrect treatment can be given, reducing the chance of cure.
Can cats get demodicosis?
Yes, but it is less common. Two demodex parasites exist: Demodex cati, and Demodex gatoi.
So what should you do if you suspect Demodex?
Arrange for a thorough clinical examination, and plan on probable investigation, which may include skin scrapings, acetates, blood or urine tests.
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