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Demodex — a special kind of hell
Demodectic mange is a potentially dangerous inflammatory skin disease that can upend a dog’s life and its family’s. Demodex is complicated, confusing, and surrounded by an amazing amount of misinformation. We hope to clear some of that up and that you learn something new and helpful.
We commend you for digging deep and learning all you can about healing your beloved pet.
Demodectic mange (also known as demodicosis, follicular mange, red mange and puppy mange) is caused by an overabundance of a mite your dog has always had.
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 is supposed to keep 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 unchecked 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.
Long term resolution requires building up the immune system. Learn how to support your dog’s immune system health here.
Good to know:
- Demodectic mange is not contagious. Dogs do not have to be isolated. People & other pets can’t catch it.
- From hatching to dying about 20-35 days later, a demodectic mite spends its entire life on a host dog
- The mites are not in your home. There’s no need to treat the dog’s bedding or living space for mites, because live mites are only in/on a dog.
- They’re about 0.00984252 inches long and cannot be seen without a microscope
- They live deep in hair follicles in toxic germy dens protected by layers of sebum and oxidized debris
Demodex appears in two different forms. It first appears as localized (sometimes so subtly that it goes unnotice), then progresses to generalized. Or both, as generalized is a progression of localized.
The localized form is is more in common in puppies. Localized is 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 massive patchy or significant hair loss and skin inflammation, secondary infection is often present, Left untreated, the disease has the potential to cause severe discomfort, become a lifetime chronic problem, start a snowball effect of compounding problems, and in rare instances degenerate into a life threatening condition.
Demodectic mange symptoms can also resemble other medical conditions. In the absence of a confirmed diagnosis our Symptom Checker can help you narrow down which type your dog has. It also suggests common precursors that aren’t necessarily symptoms.
Common Demodectic Symptoms
Your dog may have a few or almost all known symptoms in any degree of severity..
- Hairless patches
- Excessive Itching
- Redness or inflammation
- Paw problems
- Ear problemss
- 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. However, they’re notoriously unreliable. The best tool for diagnosing mange fails 80% of the time! A negative test result is no security blanket. 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 make 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 at least you know what to treat. (Usually – it’s not uncommon for the wrong mite to be identified.) Many dogs that do have mites are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed meaning they aren’t getting the care they need. And treating the wrong problem robs valuable time and often makes the condition worse in the long run.
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 often worse.
Good to know:
- A negative skin scrape does not guarantee your dog doesn’t have mites.
- Steroids are always bad news but with mange they don’t just suppress the immune system, they shut it down!
- Use antibiotics only in the presence of obvious, serious infection.
- Don’t agree to any treatment before you have time to research it.
Antibiotics are routinely prescribed too (often when there isn’t an active infection) and you already know they come with unwanted baggage that most definitely harms the immune system. Other health issues with symptoms that look like mange present similar scenarios. Mange snowballs when it’s missed or misdiagnosed because the treatments for the commonly misdiagnosed disorders do more harm than good.
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 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. Vets hate Dr. Google but this isn’t the time for that argument.
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 poor diet, lack of health care, and the stressful environments they have endured.
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 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.
First it’s important to explain that Demodectic mites are different from other typed of mange mites.They are not carnivores and are not eating your dog. They consume the body’s by-products – things like yeast, dead skin cells and damaged follicle roots. 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 they ingest. It’s what we call an indirect kill.
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 they can do the same thing to a dog. Fatalities are not common but they do set the dog up for several undesirable scenarios.
- Undesirable Side Effects – The neurotoxins that kill mites can also cause neurological and physiological reactions in dogs. Some 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. 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, Ivermectin is approved as a heartworm preventative for dogs and the typical dosed is around 6 µg/kg. However, drug is not approved for it but is still widely used as a mange treatment for dogs. The recommended for off-label dose for Demodectic mange, 400-600 µg/kg. This is where toxicity can set in.
There are many other drugs at a clinician’s disposal, none of which are baggage-free. One client had successfully been treating his dog’s Demodex when he administered Bracecto as a 3-month flea and tick treatment (a drug also used for treating mange). The reaction started within hours. His dog died a few days later. (We can’t claim the drugs caused these problems. We are only repeating our customers’ stories.)
- 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 amount of toxins and mite waste that are 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 threat. Through repeat exposure, mites are quickly becoming resistant or immune to synthetic drugs. The drugs don’t work and the poor dog has been pumped full of chemicals that only put the dog at risk. This undoubtedly plays a part in their unacceptable failure rate.
- The Treating-the-Symptoms Spiral – Chemicals only kill mites, which is nothing more than treating symptoms They do nothing to fix the immune issues behind the problem. Chemicals only kill mites. Unless the immune system gets help, its not going to be able to do it job and the mites will bounce right back.
Some dogs do just fine on drugs and their owners are comfortable with them (and that’s okay). Some people just don’t realize they have options and go the same route that have been followed for the last 40+ years (and that’s sad). 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).
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 The Odds
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.
We’re honest enough to be up front with what’s involved even though it costs us business from those not willing to undertake a multi-pronged approach to cure demodectic mange.
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.