Demodectic mange caused by demodectic mange mites is mainly a problem in dogs. Demodectic mange mites are microscopic and not highly contagious. In general, demodex mites are not spread to other animals or across species. A mother dog, however, may pass the mites to her puppies.

Diagnosis, risks, and consequences

Localized demodectic mange tends to appear in young dogs (usually less than 6 months old) as patches of scaly skin and redness around the eyes and mouth and, perhaps, the legs and trunk. Itching is not common with this type of mite infestation unless a secondary infection has occurred. Unlike other types of mange, demodectic mange may signal an underlying medical condition, and your pet’s overall health should be carefully evaluated. Less commonly, young and old dogs experience a more severe form of demodectic mange (generalized demodicosis) and can exhibit widespread patches of redness, hair loss, and scaly, thickened skin Dogs with demodicosis can develop secondary bacterial infections which require additional treatment.

Cats are rarely infected with demodex mites, and the cat demodex mite is not the same as the dog demodex mite. Affected cats develop hair loss, crusts and scaly skin around the face, neck, and eyelids, and may excessively groom the areas. They may also be itchier than dogs affected by demodex.

Demodectic mange is usually confirmed by taking a skin scraping and examining it under a microscope.

Treatment and control

Your veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you. Treatment of dogs with localized demodectic mange generally results in favorable outcomes. Generalized demodecosis, however, may be difficult to treat, and treatment may only control the condition, rather than cure it.

Important points:

  • Look for fleas, ticks, and coat abnormalities any time you groom your dog or cat or when you return home from areas that are likely to have higher numbers of these parasites.
  • Consult your veterinarian if your pet excessively scratches, chews, or licks its coat, or persistently shakes its head or scratches its ears. These clinical signs may indicate the presence of external parasites or other conditions requiring medical care.
  • Prompt treatment of parasites lessens your pet’s discomfort, decreases the chances of disease transmission, and may reduce the degree of home infestation.
  • Discuss the health of all family pets with your veterinarian when one pet becomes infested. Some parasites cycle among pets, making control of infestations difficult unless other pets are considered. Consult your veterinarian before beginning treatment.
  • Tell your veterinarian if you have attempted any parasite remedies, as this may impact your veterinarian’s recommendation.
  • Be especially careful when applying insecticides to cats, as cats are particularly sensitive to these products. Never use a product that is not approved for cats because the results could be lethal.
  • Follow label directions carefully.
  • Leave treatment to the experts. Your veterinarian offers technical expertise and can assist you in identifying products that are most likely to effectively and safely control your pet’s parasite problem.