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Demodex Mange on Dogs

Demodex Mange on Dogs: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Demodex mange on dogs is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease caused by the Demodex mite. The Demodex mite is a tiny external parasite with three subspecies, including D. canis, D. cornei, and D. injai

The main cause of Demodex mange in dogs is the presence of Demodex mites. The mites usually live on the skin of healthy dogs. The parasites spread and cause disease when the dog’s immunity system is compromised. Mange in puppies is more common because they have underdeveloped immune systems. 

Hair loss, papules, skin scaling, hyperpigmentation, skin thickening, and secondary bacterial skin infections are common signs of Demodex mange.  

Pet owners asking “how to treat mange in dogs” must consult the veterinarian for a diagnosis. Treatments for mange depend on the demodicosis type and include miticidal medications and special shampoos. 

CBD oil for dogs makes an excellent addition to the mainstream mange treatment. CBD boosts immunity and reduces inflammation. 

What is Demodex Mange in Dogs?

Demodex mange in dogs is an inflammatory, progressive, and debilitating skin condition caused by the Demodex mite. The disease is known as demodicosis, follicular, red, or acarus mange. 

The Demodex mite is specific to dogs and completes its entire life cycle as a dog parasite. The mite lives in the hair follicles and periodically in the sebaceous and epitrichial sweat glands. 

Demodex mites are generally present on dogs' skin. Disease occurs if a health condition suppresses the dog’s immune system, allowing the mites to multiply without control. 

Dogs have three different Demoxes mite species, including Demodex canis, Demodex cornei, and Demodex injai

The three species not only differ morphologically but are also found on different areas of the hosts’ skin, reports a study, “Diversity of Three Species of the Genus Demodex (Acari, Demodecidae) Parasitizing Dogs in Poland,” published in the Polish Journal of Environmental Studies in 2011. 

The study’s results indicate that the various Demodex species in dogs cause unique “forms of demodecosis with different symptoms and courses. 

How Does Demodex Mange Affect Dogs?

Demodex mange affects dogs by causing inflammation. The physical presence of mites in the hair follicles triggers local chronic inflammation. 

The inflammation is accompanied by pus formation. Pus accumulates and distends the follicle. The distended follicles rupture under the pressure, resulting in a chronic skin condition. 

Dogs exhibit allergic reactions to the presence of mites in the hair follicles in rare cases. The allergy is a complication and adds to the clinical manifestation. 

“Canine demodecosis is primarily a chronic inflammatory response to the mechanical presence of mites in hair follicles, with a small minority of cases possibly exhibiting allergic reactions to the parasite,” according to a study “The Histopathology and Pathogenesis of Demodecosis of the Dog” published in Journal of Comparative Pathology in 1969. 

What are the Causes of Demodectic Mange in Dogs?

The causes of demodectic mange in dogs are listed below. 

  • Demodex canis: Demodex canis is the oldest known and most common Demodex mite responsible for localized and generalized demodicosis in dogs. Demodicosis caused by Demodex canis is among the top six skin diseases in dogs in the USA, according to the article “Demodex canis, Demodex cornei and Demodex injai” by VetlLexicon in 2024. 
  • Demodex cornei: Demodex cornei is a mite species that often parasitizes concurrently with D. canis in dogs with demodectic mange. D. cornei is a short-bodies morphological variant of D. canis, explains a study, “Phylogenetic relationships in three species of canine Demodex mite based on partial sequences of mitochondrial 16S rDNA” published in Veterinary Dermatology in 2012. 
  • Demodex injai: Demodex injai is a “new species of hair follicle mite found in domestic dogs,” documented in a study on “Demodex injai: A New Species of Hair Follicle Mite from the Domestic Dog,” published in the Journal of Medical Entomology in 2003. The D. injai species is rare and burrows deep into the hair follicles and the sebaceous glands. 

How different is Demodex Mange from Sarcoptic Mange?

Demodex mange is different from Sarcoptic mange in that it is not contagious. Infected dogs do not spread Demodex mites to healthy dogs, while Sarcoptes mites are easily spread and highly infectious. 

Other differences include appearance and living places. The Demodex mite is cigar-shaped and lives in hair follicles. The Sarcoptes mite is round and lives in canals on the skin's surface. 

The last difference is in clinical manifestation. Demodectic mange does not cause itchiness, and sarcoptic mange in dogs is extremely itchy. 

The treatment is similar for Demodex and Sarcoptic mange in dogs and includes antiparasitics and symptom management. 

What does demodex mange look like on a dog's skin?

Demodex mange looks like alopecia on a dog’s skin. Alopecia or hair loss is the first indicator of demodectic mange in dogs. 

Demodex mites live in hair follicles, causing alopecia. The hair loss begins around the dog’s eyes, muzzle, and other head parts. The alopecia around the eyes makes the dog look like it is wearing sunglasses.

The skin with demodectic mange gets irritated, crusty, and moist over time, giving the dog a greasy and unkempt appearance.

What are the Symptoms of demodectic mange in dogs?

The symptoms of demodectic mange in dogs are listed below. 

  • Hair Loss: Hair loss is dogs' first sign of demodectic mange. The hair loss starts around the eye and muzzle, especially in puppies, because the head parts are in contact with the puppies’ mother (during suckling). 
  • Skin Scaling: Skin scaling is the process of skin cells flaking off, which results in dry, cracked, or flaky skin. Scaling is uncomfortable and gives the dog an unkempt look. 
  • Papules: Papules are raised and bumpy skin lesions with a diameter smaller than one centimeter. Papules form where hair follicles burst due to mite presence and distension. 
  • Hyperpigmentation: Hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin is a hallmark sign of long-term skin irritation and damage. The darkening is striking in light-colored dogs. 
  • Skin Thickening: Skin thickening is another indicator of prolonged irritation. The thicker skin loses its normal appearance and is usually hairless. 
  • Occasional Itching: Demodex mange is not itchy on its own, but occasional itchiness is possible in the advanced stages due to secondary bacterial skin infections. 
  • Draining Wounds: The secondary skin infection triggers collarettes, excoriations, and other skin lesions that ooze or drain fluids over time.  
  • Loss of Appetite: Reduced or lost appetite is common in dogs with complicated mange and secondary skin infections. 
  • Lethargy: Mange is debilitating and lowers the dog’s energy levels. The reduced food intake weakens the dog, making it prone to sleeping and disinterested in daily activities. 
  • Fever: Fever or increased body temperature (above 103F) in dogs is a sign of bacterial skin infections arising as a complication of the mange presence. 
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes: Some dogs' secondary skin infection following mange causes lymph node enlargement. 

How is demodectic mange diagnosed in dogs?

Demodectic mange is diagnosed in dogs through skin scraping or hair plucking. The veterinarian starts by documenting the dog’s history and performing a complete body examination. 

The next step is skin scraping or hair plucking. Skin scraping is when a scalpel blade scrapes the skin, causing mild irritation or bleeding. Hair plucking is plucking a pinch of hair from the root. 

The collected samples are analyzed under a microscope. The presence of Demodex mites confirms the diagnosis. 

Demodex mites are found in fecal tests or flotation. Dogs ingest some of the Demodex mites when grooming, and they end up in the poop. 

PCR or polymerase chain reaction testing and biopsy are recommended if the dog has typical demodectic mange symptoms but skin tests do not reveal mite presence. 

Can demodex mange be contagious to other dogs?

No, Demodex mange cannot be contagious to other dogs. Infected dogs do not spread mites to other healthy dogs. 

Using a real-time PCR technique, Demodex mites, albeit in very low numbers, were found to be normal inhabitants of haired areas of the skin of healthy dogs, reports a study “Small Demodex Populations Colonize Most Parts of the Skin of Healthy Dogs” issued in Veterinary Dermatology in 2013.  

Dogs normally carry Demodex mites on their skin. Changes in the immune system and stress cause the mites to multiply excessively, causing disease and skin symptoms. 

Are there any home remedies for treating demodectic mange in dogs?

Yes, there are home remedies for treating demodectic mange in dogs. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is the most popular natural remedy. 

Sponge the dog with a solution containing ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, ½ cup of Borax, and warm water, and let the mixture air-dry. Ensure the solution does not get into the dog’s eyes or mouth. Sprinkle the ACV solution for dogs with localized mange instead of sponging it. 

Optional home remedy options are honey and olive oil. Apply the honey or olive oil directly to the irritated skin to soothe the inflammation and promote healing. 

Home remedies are not a definitive cure and must not be used as a substitute for mainstream treatment. At-home remedies assist the treatment and help relieve the mange symptoms in some cases. 

Is Demodex Mange Considered as Allergies in Dogs?

No, Demodex mange is not considered as allergies in dogs. Mange is a chronic skin disease caused by the parasitic mite Demodex. The mite causes inflammation due to its mechanical presence in the hair follicles. 

The Demodex mite causes a local allergic reaction in rare cases. True allergies occurred in dogs when the immune system is involved, which is not the case with mange. 

How do you treat demodectic mange in dogs?

You treat demodectic mange in dogs by following the instructions below. 

  • Immune System Support: Localized forms of juvenile (puppy) demodectic mange do not require treatment and resolve independently. A healthy diet that boosts the immune system helps fight off the infection. 
  • Topical Antiparasitics: Topical antiparasitics treat more severe forms of localized demodectic mange. Popular options include moxidectin and imidacloprid. 
  • Miticidal Medications: Miticidal medications kill mites. Ivermectin, doramectin, amitraz, milbemycin, doramectin, amitraz, fluralaner, afoxolaner, and sarolaner are commonly used miticidal meds. Miticides are available in oral, injectable, and topical forms. Talk to the veterinarian to determine the best medication. Ivermectin, such as Collies and Old English Sheepdogs, must not be used in dogs with MDR-1 gene mutation. 
  • Special Shampoos: Shampoos formulated with benzoyl peroxide are helpful. Benzoyl peroxide opens and flushes the hair follicles. The effect has the dual benefit of removing mites and allowing the miticidal medications to penetrate the follicles.  
  • Antibiotics: The veterinarian prescribes antibiotics to dogs with secondary bacterial skin infections. Managing the skin infection is vital for a successful mange treatment. 
  • Breeding Program Removal: Dogs with generalized mange must be removed from breeding programs because mite overgrowth is believed to have a genetic component. Another reason to stop breeding is that estrous cycles and pregnancies cause mange relapses. 

How long does it take to treat demodectic mange in dogs?

It takes between several weeks to months to treat demodectic mange in dogs. Dogs with uncomplicated, mild, and local demodicosis heal without treatment within one to two months. 

Dogs with generalized demodectic mange require two to three months or longer to fully recover from the mites and dermatitis. 

The exact treatment length depends on the severity of the skin inflammation and the treatment approach. 

Dogs with mixed Demodex and Sarcoptes mites, treated with oral ivermectin, topical amitraz, and antimicrobial shampoos recovered 42 days after the treatment was initiated, in a case report study “Dermatitis due to Mixed Demodex and Sarcoptes Mites in Dogs” published in Case reports in Veterinary Medicine in 2014. 

Can demodex mange be fatal for dogs if left untreated?

Yes, Demodex mange can be fatal for dogs if left untreated. Demodicosis is described as a chronic inflammatory and debilitating condition. 

Dogs with demodectic mange require prolonged treatment. Managing the underlying medical conditions that complicate mange is challenging but vital. 

Untreated mange is potentially life-threatening. Pet owners in the past have chosen to put their dogs down due to complications and severe consequences. 

What is the role of ivermectin in demodectic mange treatment for dogs?

The role of ivermectin in demodectic mange treatment for dogs is central. Ivermectin is a broad-spectrum antiparasitic. The use of Demodex treatment is “off-label” or “extra-label.”

Ivermectin is available in oral tablets, topical fluids, and injectable solutions. Daily oral use achieves the best results for dogs with demodectic mange.  

“Oral ivermectin at 600 g kg-1 effectively resolves generalized canine demodicosis in 82.25 % of dogs after a one-year follow-up,” according to a study “Evaluation of Ivermectin Tablets in the Treatment of Generalized Canine Demodicosis” published in Revue De Medecine Veterinaire in 2007. 

Can demodectic mange recur in dogs after treatment?

Yes, demodectic mange can recur in dogs after treatment. Recurring mange is more common in puppies until the age of 18 months or until their immune system is fully developed. 

Relapse or recurrence of demodicosis in dogs occurs in around 11% of cases, according to a study titled “Demodicosis: New Treatment, Common Misdiagnosis,” published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal in 2018. 

Common causes of relapse in adult dogs are sudden stress, chronic illness, and periods of estrous, pregnancy, and lactation. 

Treatments with the hormone cortisone and immunosuppressants like the popular Atopica and Apoquel sometimes trigger demodicosis recurrences. 

Does Mites Cause Demodex Mange?

Yes, mites cause demodex mange. The mite is called Demodex and includes three subspecies, including D. canis, D. cornei, and D. injai.  

Demodex mites measure between 0.15 and 0.4 millimeters in body size. The tiny mite is cigar-shaped and has eight legs. Under a microscope, the Demodex mite is somewhat transparent with defined scales. 

Two dog mites, Demodex and Sarcoptes, cause demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange or scabies in canines.

Can Puppies Get Demodex Mange?

Yes, puppies can get Demodex mange. Infected canine bitches transmit Demodex mites to their puppies shortly after birth. 

Puppies are born with underdeveloped immune systems. The lack of robust immune response makes puppies predisposed to demodectic mange. 

The puppies’ immune systems mature between 12 and 18 months old, reducing the incidence of mange. 

Mange in puppies is normal due to their weak immunity. Mange in adult dogs is always a red flag, indicating an underlying health problem. 

Can CBD Oil Help Treat Demodex Mange?

Yes, CBD oil can help treat Demodex mange. CBD, or cannabidiol, is not a cure for mange but helps boost immunity and relieve symptoms. 

CBD has anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating features. The anti-inflammatory effect helps reduce inflammation, which is an important part of mange. The immune-modulating potential boosts the dog’s defenses. 

“The anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulating properties of CBD were first shown in a study, “Effect of Cannabidiol (CBD) on Canine Inflammatory Response: An Ex Vivo Study on LPS Stimulated Whole Blood,” published in Veterinary Sciences in 2021. 

Give CBD orally to boost immunity and control inflammation. Apply CBD oil for dogs directly on irritated skin for soothing and temporary irritation relief.