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Demodectic Mange

Canine demodicosis is an unusual and interesting condition in the dog and on occasions, very difficult to treat. The only time it is contagious is in the first 3 days of life when the mites are passed from the mother to the pups while nursing. After this the mange is no longer contagious which contrasts markedly with Sarcoptic Mange which is extremely contagious on dogs of any age.

The mite is a normal inhabitant of the skin and in most individuals it lives in very low numbers in hair follicles without causing any problems. Unfortunately in a small number of individuals the mite multiplies out of control and causes a clinical disease. The main symptoms are hair loss and reddening of the skin which is why it is also called "Red Mange". There are three recognised presentations depending on the size and location of affected areas:

Localised Demodicosis - Small patches of hair loss, reddening and scaling of the skin commonly on the face and forelegs.

Generalised Demodicosis - Larger areas of skin affected, there are two main groups:

Juvenile onset develops in patients less than 2 years old and has a hereditary component so affected individuals should not be used for breeding.

Adult onset - develops in patients over 2 years old and can be due to serious underlying disease.

Demodectic Pododermatitis - All four feet affected with the disease which can be very painful.

The diagnosis is made by demonstrating the mite on samples taken from the skin under the microscope:

  In this case the mites were so numerous that just pressing a microscope slide on the skin allowed large numbers to be collected. However normally the mite lives deep in hair follicles and some cases require skin biopsies to demonstrate the parasite.

Some cases resolve spontaneously without treatment but others require regular applications of antiparasitic shampoo's. In a proportion of cases this may not be sufficient and stronger treatment by mouth of potent paraciticidal drugs may be necessary. Sadly a minority are even resistant to this and the condition can be fatal if secondary infection by bacteria develops.

The above case developed in an Old English Sheepdog affecting all four legs and much of the body 'Adult Onset Generalised Demodicosis'.

The dog was suffering from a seasonal pollen allergy which had been managed with cortisone. Unfortunately one side effect of cortisone is suppression of the immune system and this allowed the mite to multiply out of control causing the demodicosis. Once the cortisone was stopped and and the dog treated with parasiticidal baths the Demodicosis cleared up, an alternative approach to managing the pollen allergy was found and the dog returned to full health.
For more details about Richard Morris and his practice click here: Richard Morris

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Dogs - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Mr R. D. Morris BSc BVetMed CertVD MRCVS Fenwold Dermatology Clinic

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