Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Demodectic mange in dogs is a skin condition caused by microscopic mites that live inside the hair follicles. Also known as red mange, follicular mange or puppy mange, this parasitic skin infection normally appears in young puppies but can affect dogs of any age, in particular those with weakened immune systems.

Causes of Mange in Dogs

Demodectic mange is most commonly transmitted by the Demodex canis mite and is transferred from a mother to her puppies in the first days after birth. Nearly every dog will carry these mites but should develop an immunity to the parasites as puppies. It is very rare for a dog to become infected with demodectic mange from contact with another dog other than his mother, unlike sarcoptic mange which is highly contagious. Dogs will become infected with mange as puppies with underdeveloped immune systems or if the immunity of an adult dog is weakened by an underlying health problem, which can include heartworm, cancer, liver or kidney disease.

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

In puppies, signs of a mange infection generally appear on the head in the form of lesions, hair loss, red and crusted patches of skin, and, in some cases, itching. Demodectic mange may be localized, with the appearance of 4 to 5 legions in one or two areas of the body, or generalized, with lesions appearing all over the body. Secondary bacterial infections, fever, loss of appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, itching, odor and oozing from lesions are also seen in generalized demodectic mange.  Generalized mange should be treated immediately.

Treating Mange in Dogs

Some localized cases of demodectic mange in puppies can be left untreated and clear up on their own. Others will require medications and topical treatments such as Goodwinol ointment. More severe cases may require a medicated dip such as Amitraz. Your vet can also prescribe an anti-itch medication. Some medications used to treat demodectic mange should not be used on certain breeds of dog, so always follow instructions from your veterinarian and used prescribed treatments only. In the past, a common home-remedy involved using a motor oil dip to treat a dog with mange. This is strongly discouraged due to the severe medical problems that can result from contact with motor oil.

Preventing Mange in Dogs

Because demodectic mange is not considered to be contagious, only the dog needs to be treated while the dog's environment, including bedding or kennels, do not need to be sanitized or treated. Isolating an infected dog is also unnecessary.

Preventing mange involves maintaining a healthy immune system and creating a stress-free environment to prevent the mites from affecting your dog. Keeping them free of other parasites will also help prevent the appearance of demodectic mange in dogs. In general, proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle will also help your dog maintain a strong immune system and stop the demodex mites from affecting his health.