Adopting a Dog with Demodedic Mange

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Demodedic mange may look scary, but there's really no reason it should discourage you from adopting a dog. It's a treatable inflammatory condition caused by demodex mites that results in itchy skin, sores, scabs, reddened skin and hair loss.

Demodectic mange may take a few months to heal, but unlike sarcoptic mange, is not contagious to other dogs or people. In fact, most dogs recover completely, especially if they are under 18 months when they are diagnosed with demodectic mange. And once healed, most dogs not acquire another infestation; as the dog’s immune defenses are primed to eliminate any new demodex mites.

Symptoms and Types of Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Demodectic mange in dogs may either be localized, meaning that it affects only specific areas of the body, or generalized, where it affects the entire body.

If localized, symptoms are usually mild, with lesions occurring in patches, especially on the face, torso or legs. If generalized, symptoms will be more widespread and appear across the body. These symptoms include alopecia, a redness of the skin (erythema) and the appearance of scales and lesions.


The demodex mite is a normal inhabitant of your dog’s skin. In low numbers, these mites cause no symptoms and may serve an important role as part of your dog’s normal skin microfauna (similar to the way healthy bacteria is important in digestive health).

Three species of mites have been identified to cause mange in dogs. The species of mite most commonly associated with demodicosis is the Demodex canis, which inhabits the skin and hair follicles and may transfer from mother to newborn during nursing. This means that nearly all dogs carry these mites, and very few suffer symptoms.

However, when dogs have a compromised immune system, the mites can start to multiply unchecked, which leads to demodectic mange and itchy skin.


Skin scrapings are used to find and diagnose demodicosis in dogs. Plucking hairs may also help identify the mite responsible for the condition.

Treatment of Demodectic Mange in Dogs

If localized, the problem is likely to resolve itself and disappear spontaneously, which happens in approximately 90 percent of cases. For severe generalized cases, long-term dog medications may be necessary to control the condition. Females should be spayed, as fluctuations in hormones can exacerbate the disease. High-quality dog food and a low-stress home environment may also help reduce future flare-ups.

There are now several treatments available for dog demodectic mange. The easiest are the isoxazoline flea and tick medicine for dogs.

Living and Management of Demodectic Mange

Follow-up care should include skin scrapings to continually monitor the presence of mites and check the treatment’s progress. With chronic long-term cases, regular medication may be necessary.

Your veterinarian will continue treatment for several weeks after there is no longer evidence of mites. Year-round dog flea and tick treatments with a product that is effective against mites is highly recommended for dogs with a history of mange.