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Demodectic mange (also known as demodex, demodicosis, follicular mange, red mange and puppy mange) is a potentially dangerous inflammatory skin disease that can upend a dog’s life and their family’s. This type of mange is complicated, confusing, and surrounded by an amazing amount of misinformation. We hope to clear up some misconceptions and that you learn something new and helpful.
We commend you for digging deep and learning all you can about healing your pet.
Demodectic mange is caused by an over abundance of the demodectic mite normally found on dogs in small numbers.
Every mother dog passes a few of the microscopic parasites to her puppies, as Mother Nature intended for dogs to always have a few of them. The dog’s immune system keeps the population low and harmless, therefore most dogs have no reaction to them. But dogs with underdeveloped, suppressed, or compromised immune systems are prime victims for a population explosion of these parasites.
Demodectic mange does not come from dirty homes or poor ownership. All dogs that develop Demodex have an immune system issue. The most common victims (in this order) are young dogs (especially rescues) with inadequate or underdeveloped immune systems, certain breeds, dogs with other health conditions, and older dogs whose immune systems are naturally declining.
About Demodectic Mites:
- Demodectic mange is not contagious. Dogs do not have to be isolated. People & other pets can’t catch it.
- A demodectic mite spends its entire life (25 – 30 days), on a host dog. This type of mite never leaves your dog.
- There’s no need to treat the dog’s bedding or living space for mites. Demodectic mites live deep within your dog’s skin in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands and don’t come out.
- They’re about 0.009 inches long and cannot be seen without a microscope.
- They live deep in the hair follicles protected by layers of sebum and oxidized waste and debris.
Demodectic Mange appears in 2 different forms. The localized demodicosis form can grow to become generalized demodicosis as this is a progressive disease.
- Localized demodicosis is more common in puppies. Localized means 1-5 small spots, generally found around the eyes, lips, or legs. The lesions may or may not be itchy.
- Generalized demodicosis is a severe disease characterized by patchy (5 or more areas) or significant hair loss and skin inflammation. Secondary infections may be present.
With generalized demodectic mange, patches of hair loss and inflammation develop which often coalesce into large areas of thickened skin and sores. Secondary fungal infections of the skin are routine and secondary bacterial infections are almost as common. Affected dogs can develop discharging lumps on/within the skin. Bleeding from these lesions is not uncommon. As with the localized form, lesions often start around the head, face, and feet, but often spread to involve large areas of the body surface. The ears can also be affected by this parasite, resulting in secondary infections. Itchiness and pain. An odor is a frequent symptom as well.
Left untreated, the disease has the potential to cause severe discomfort and additional health related problems.
Demodectic mange symptoms can also resemble other skin medical conditions. In the absence of a confirmed diagnosis, our Symptom Checker can help you narrow down which type of mite your dog has.
Common Demodectic Symptoms
- Hairless patches
- Excessive Itching
- Redness or inflammation
- Paw problems
- Ear problems
- Small bumps that resemble immature acne comedones
- Infected moist pustules
- Scabs or flakes
- Secondary bacterial infection
- Odor or yeast infection
- Thickened skin
- Skin discoloration
- Appetite loss
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Diagnosis & Misdiagnosis
Skin scraping is the most common diagnostic tool. They are notoriously fillable. A negative result does not mean the dog doesn’t have mites, it means that none were found.
Demodectic mites are deep and well-barricaded which makes it hard to drag them to the surface. Even punch biopsies fail to find mites more than they succeed.
A positive scrape is actually a blessing because you know what to treat, and treating the wrong problem uses valuable time which can make the condition worse.
For example, Demodectic mange and allergy symptoms are so similar that without a confirmed mite sighting, allergies are almost always diagnosed. The trouble with that is if the problem really is mange, the dog is taking drugs that only mask symptoms and when they wear off, the problem is still there, and probably worse.
Good to know:
- A negative skin scrape does not guarantee your dog doesn’t have mites
- Some traditional chemical treatments can suppress the immune system
- Don’t agree to any treatment before you have time to research it
Out of frustration, many of our customers end up diagnosing their dogs on their own. When things continually get worse, they realize they’ve been barking up the wrong tree and are forced to figure it out for themselves.
The bottom line is, before moving forward with any type of treatment for any condition, please research the risks of the proposed treatments as many can have unintended side effects. The other thing that shouldn’t need to be said is to trust your gut. If something doesn’t sound or feel right, (you don’t even need to put your finger on specifically what), buy yourself some time. Delay, defer, whatever.
The Thing About Puppies
Good to know:
- Demodectic mange affects juvenile dogs under three years of age more than any other age group.
- The risk of a puppy developing chronic lifetime mange decreases dramatically with strong detox & immune support.
Puppies and juvenile dogs under 3 years of age are the most frequent victims of Demodectic mange. They are born with immature, under-functioning immune and digestive systems, both of which are critical contributors to a puppy’s ability to control its mite population even in the best of times.
Unfortunately, puppies have some of their most stressful challenges early in life such as re-homing, vaccines, neutering, and more.
Rescue dogs have the cards stacked against them due to poor diet, lack of health care, and the stressful environments they have endured.
Because of the high incidence of juvenile demodicosis, one of our most frequently asked questions concerns the age a puppy can be treated. The answer is Mite Avenge can safely be used on puppies over 6 weeks of age.
Traditional Treatment – Is it right for your dog?
Almost all traditional mange treatments are chemical pesticides delivered in the form of dips, medications, and even flea treatments. Every one contains systemic neurotoxins that spread through the body.
Even though veterinary science considers them safe to an extent, they can still pose a number of health risks because, in reality, they are poisons that systemically spread, turning every cell in the body into a toxic bomb (even though only follicles and sebaceous glands are affected).
That alone is scary enough because that means the chemicals can affect any part of the body but the way they work is just as unsettling.
Good to know:
- Chemicals are immuno-suppressive & do not treat the root causes of Demodex.
- Herding breeds like Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Old English Sheepdogs, and others that are known to carry the MDR1 gene mutation should never be treated with chemicals.
- Mange can get worse during any method of treatment. Here’s a great blog post that explains it.
Demodectic mites are different from other types of mange mites. They are not carnivores and are not eating your dog. They consume the body’s by-products – things like cellular proteins, systemic yeast, dietary yeast and/or sugar in the system.
So for chemicals to work, they have to be in the body at high enough levels, for a long enough period of time before they become part of the dog’s sebaceous fluids, skin cells, or anything else mites ingest.
The chief ingredients in chemical mite treatments are neurotoxic pesticides that damage the mites’ central nervous system, causing a paralysis and death. That’s the upside. The downside is undesirable side effects to the dog.
- Side Effects – The neurotoxins that kill mites can also cause neurological and physiological reactions in dogs. Some of our customers’ stories would break your heart because the damage done is irreversible. Among the 50 or so known side effects associated with antiparasitic pesticides, most originate in the nervous system. The weakness of one or more limbs, paralysis, balance disorders, vision disorders, pain, and seizures are among the neurologic side effects. Heartworm preventives and flea treatments contain the same chemicals used to treat mange. But the doses for those purposes are minuscule compared to treating Demodex. For example, a heartworm preventative for dogs is typically dosed is around 6 µg/kg. The recommended off-label dose for Demodectic mange, 400-600 µg/kg. These drugs are not approved as a mange treatment for dogs but are widely used.
- Toxin Overload – There is no control over the kill rate if, and when, the pesticides kick in. Hence, there’s no way to regulate the number of toxins and mite waste that is released when mites die. The dog’s systems are already diminished and a flood of toxins and pathogens can cause die-off symptoms and/or force treatment abandonment. Even worse – if a dog endures a high toxin load for an extended period of time, its immune system can be permanently damaged.
- Resistance to Treatment – Anything that lives also adapts to threats. Through repeat exposure, mites are becoming resistant or immune to synthetic drugs. This plays a part in the treatment failure rate.
- Treating-the-Symptoms – Chemicals only kill mites, which is nothing more than treating symptoms. They do not fix the immune system issues behind the problem. Unless the immune system gets help, it’s not going to be able to do its part in controlling the mite population.
Some dogs do just fine with drug treatment programs and their owners are comfortable with them (and that’s okay). But many people just don’t realize they have options. Some dogs don’t fare so well and their owners only find us as a last resort (and that’s regrettable). Some folks think alternative treatments are pure snake oil (and that’s wrong). And as more information about chemical treatments is revealed, a greater number of responsible pet guardians are looking for a safer way to help their dog (and that’s awesome).
Holistic Treatment – The Natural Approach To Demodex
Today, more and more pet owners demand safer alternatives and seek a natural route. Sadly, information on natural options is scarce.
There are many home remedies and commercial products available for treating mange and we recommend following a holistic plan that kills mites and remediates the underlying root problems such as diet. Click here to read How to Starve Mange.
There is a space for both chemical & natural treatments – the treatment choice for you should be what’s best for you and your dog. Our free e-book has much more information than we can provide here. It’s sure to be of benefit as you guide your dog back to health. Click here to download our e-book.
Beat Mange with Mite Avenge
Our natural approach safely kills mites without caustic or toxic chemicals. Mite Avenge® is the most effective natural mite killer you can buy and Happy Dog Naturals® is the only source that explains all the facts and offers a proven solution.
Demodex is an intertwined disease that responds well when treated holistically. Here is the most comprehensive holistic program you’ll find. It’s the program that’s saved thousands of dogs.
We built this company to help you be the best guardian-advocate a dog could have, and the products we offer are selected to give you the expert tools to help you win the battle against mange.