Is Demodex in Dogs Contagious?

Demodex mites link directly to demodectic mange. The mite can live on a dog without ever causing a problem. Dogs with weakened immune systems are most likely to develop symptoms of the disease. Generally, demodectic mange, also called red mange, is not considered to be highly contagious. However, there are cases of dogs in a household all developing demodectic mange leading experts to believe that some types of mites may be able to pass from one dog to another if the dogs live in close quarters and are frequently skin to skin.

Information about Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange mites live within hair follicles. Adults lay eggs in the hair follicle, larva and nymphs develop in the oil glands and hair follicle and then nymphs grow into adults where they live on the surface of the skin, oil glands and hair follicle and lay more eggs. Because it's hard for rinses and dips to get deep within a hair follicle, this form of mange can take time and money to kill off all mites.

How Puppies Pick Up Demodex Mites

Puppies have the highest risk for demodectic mange. The mites pass from the mother to her puppies at birth. It takes about a week for a puppy's immune system to start developing, so the mites enter the puppy's hair follicles while the immune system is developing and then begin laying eggs and growing in number for months before you see any signs.

Most infected puppies begin showing signs of demodectic mange around four months of age. At this time, oily bald patches appear and lesions become noticeable. Lesions often heal themselves as the puppy builds up immunities. At this point, your veterinarian will take a skin scraping to check for mites. If they are present, treatment will begin.

Treating Demodectic Mange

Demodex mites only thrive and cause problems in dogs with weakened immune systems. Investigating and treating the reason for the weakened immune system is generally recommended. Vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as adding fatty acids to a dog's diet, can help improve immunities.

Treatment usually starts with miticide dips or shampoos. Mitiban dips given every other week for up to three months are usually effective. Your vet will likely continue to do skin scrapings for up to a year to make sure the mites do not return.

If miticide dips and shampoos do not work effectively, your veterinarian may suggest Ivermectin. The parasite medication is found in Heartgard but will be given in a higher dosage that is currently available in the heartworm medication. Ivermectin is not recommended in certain breeds of dogs, including Collies.

Misconceptions Regarding Demodex Mites

Some pet owners believe that demodectic mange is caused by unclean animals, kennels or pet bedding. This is untrue. The mites live on any animal, clean or dirty. The mites will not leave their host animal and will remain on the animal until treatment is given.

Years ago, dipping a puppy in motor oil was a common home remedy to treat demodex mites. Do not try this! Motor oil is toxic to puppies if they lick it off. In addition, motor oil is absorbed through the pores leading to severe health problems.