Demodicosis in Dogs
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Demodex are parasitic mites that cause a skin condition called demodicosis. These microscopic monsters can live in your dog’s hair follicles and oil glands, and on the surface of her skin.
While all dogs have a small population of these little pests (disgusting, I know), those who are sick or have a compromised immune system can’t suppress the mites from spreading, and so an infestation can occur.
Localized demodicosis infections usually occur early in life, typically in puppies between 3 and 6 months of age. This form of of the disease is usually mild and responds well to treatment. Many cases resolve spontaneously with little or no treatment. Generalized demodicosis, however, can occur in dogs of any age and is usually secondary to an underlying disease that is suppressing the dog’s immune system. Unlike the localized version, generalized demodicosis can be difficult to treat and carries a guarded prognosis.
With localized demodicosis, symptoms are usually mild and affect a dog’s face, trunk, or legs. You will notice thinning hair, scaly skin, and the skin itself will appear reddish-brown and look very itchy. With generalized demodicosis, skin lesions are more widespread and may involve the entire body. Your dog may look scruffy and show signs of hair loss as well as discoloration of the skin. She may also be lethargic and have a poor appetite.
In order to diagnose your dog with demodicosis, your veterinarian will take skin scrapings of the affected areas and may recommend other tests specific to your dog’s symptoms and the severity of the infestation.
The treatment for demodicosis will vary depending on whether the infection is localized or generalized, taking into account your dog’s state. Treatment typically includes specialized shampoos or dips. In some situations, additional medications such as antibiotics are prescribed, if a secondary bacterial infection has occurred. As stated above, the good news is that, most often, localized infestations resolve themselves without treatment!
For more information about the treatment of demodicosis, visit http://www.capcvet.org/recommendations/demodex.html.
Maintaining your pooch’s health is the best way to prevent her from contracting demodicosis. A healthy environment, good diet, and regular veterinary checkups will help your dog be in the best possible health! The good news about demodicosis is that it is NOT contagious to other dogs, cats, or humans!
For more information about demodicosis, please talk with your veterinarian—your key resource for information about the health and well-being of your best friend.