Does your dog seem to suddenly have small bald patches around his face, forelegs or eyes? He may be suffering from demodectic mange, which is caused by a tiny mite called Demodex canis. The naked eye is unable to see this tiny mite, so a trip to your veterinarian would be in order to properly diagnose the presence of the Demodex canis.
Every dog naturally has this type of mite on their skin, but in order to be diagnosed as mange, lesions must accompany the other symptoms. Puppies can get this mite from their mother, but the Demodex mite is not contagious between other dogs. This type of mange can affect puppies from three months up to twelve months of age. In the pores of the puppies’ skin, the mite resides, but doesn’t cause symptoms until some (unknown) point, they activate.
A puppy’s immune system is not yet developed, so the Demodex mites produce a substance that allows them to multiply once the puppies’ resistance to their presence has decreased. As a dog matures, and his immune system is functioning properly, he is less likely to contract Demodex mites and mange. The mite will usually disappear on its own for puppies, even without medication from the veterinarian.
Older dogs can also be affected, as their immune systems have sometimes already been compromised by other health issues. The prognosis for an older dog is taken a bit more seriously, but can be diagnosed and treated effectively.
If you see evidence of this mite on your dog, it is best to take him to the vet to confirm the presence of the Demodex mite. The veterinarian will determine if the dog indeed has the condition by scraping the skin or taking an biopsy.
The Demodex mite can cause localized areas, such as the head or legs, and sometimes over the dog’s entire body, a lost of hair. These areas could appear red, scaly and crusty. You’ll actually be able to see bare areas of skin. Surprisingly, this condition doesn’t cause itchiness for the dog. Other times, Demodectic mange can begin as a localized infection and develop into something more serious. If your dog’s skin is sore, crusty and oozing, the hair follicles are probably clogged with debris and the mites themselves.
This level of mange requires specific treatment, which your vet can outline for you. It may include using an ointment around the eyes, giving him a bath with medicated shampoo, and giving him an oral medication as well. If your dog is experiencing lesions on his feet (in extreme cases, this is possible), your vet may recommend a specific topical medication to treat those areas.
Depending on the time a puppy contracts this mite, he could have it recur, even after successful treatment, up until the time his immune system is up and running at full tilt. The key is to catch the symptoms early and get treatment for your dog as soon as possible.