What You Should Know About Demodex Mites

What You Should Know About Demodex Mites

What You Should Know About Demodex Mites

Demodex is the genus name for a tiny parasitic mite that is normally present in mammals. They live on the skin or near hair follicles. There are over 60 known species of the Demodex mite.

Some Demodex Mites Live On Human Hosts

People normally have two types of these mites: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. They are sometimes called eyelash mites. Demodex mites are a natural part of the human microbiome or body ecology. They are believed to serve a useful function in removing waste by feeding off dead skin cells on the face and elsewhere. However, larger than normal concentrations of Demodex mites on the face are associated with flare-ups of rosacea. Rest assured that only in rare conditions do humans get affected by the type of Demodex mites that lives on a dog.

Demodex mite, magnified.

Demodex mite, scanned with electron microscope. Image by Alan R Walker

Demodex Mites in Dogs

Different animals are hosts to different species of Demodex mites. The species that lives on dogs is called Demodex canis. Normally, the numbers of demodex mites living on a dog cause no problems, but if their numbers increase drastically, they can cause a skin condition called demodectic mange.

Demodectic mange is referred to clinically as “demodicosis.” It’s also called “red mange,” because of the reddening of the skin that occurs, and sometimes just called “demodex.”

The dog will typically lose hair in patches, and if limited to isolated patches, it’s referred to as localized demodectic mange. If the condition is left untreated, the mange can spread to many areas of the dog’s skin, becoming a more severe condition called generalized demodectic mange. Generalized demodectic mange will show as larger areas of skin or a dog’s entire body losing hair, and also be accompanied by overall itchiness and smelly skin caused by secondary bacterial infections that set in.

How Does a Dog Get Demodex Mites?

Because demodex mites live deep inside the dermis (skin) and most dogs have some of them, the mites usually transfer between dogs only with prolonged direct contact, such as when mother dogs are nursing their puppies. As a result, lesions from demodex mange will show up in puppies on the muzzle, face, forelimbs, and around the young dog’s eyes. Symptoms do not usually show up in puppies until they are between 3 and 6 months old. The mother may not show any signs of having demodex mites but still can transmit them to her puppies, which do not yet have full-grown immune responses. Because its immune system does not mature until it’s 12 to 18 months old, a dog with demodectic mange may have relapses until it’s halfway into its second year of life. It is important to treat signs of demodex mites as soon as a relapse occurs to minimize the possibility of developing uncontrollable problems.

Demodex Mange Tendencies by Breed

There have been more frequent observations of demodectic mange in certain breeds, such as Dalmatians, American Bulldogs and American Pit Bull Terriers. In addition, Old English Sheepdogs and Shar Peis are prone to demodectic mange infections on their feet.

Appearance of Demodex Mange

Demodex mange can manifest as sores or lesions of two types:

  • squamous, which causes dryness, hair loss, and thickening of the skin, and
  • pustular, which is the more severe form, causing secondary staph infection which causes the skin to have a red and wrinkled appearance.

In early stages and in young dogs, demodex mite problems may be confined to localized spots, giving the dog a polka dot appearance, or the mites can create generalized mange, in which the dog will lose hair all over, be itchy and smelly. Demodex mites can cause itchy hot spots to occur when the dog licks or scratches at areas that are aggravated and have secondary infections.

Adult-onset Demodex Mange

Adult-onset demodicosis is a mite condition usually seen full grown dogs that otherwise appear healthy but that are actually affected with some immunity disorder. For this reason, treating the mites can be done at home but if the mite condition proves difficult to cure, a veterinarian should be consulted and give a full health assessment of the dog’s overall immune system. A veterinarian can screen against conditions such as hypothyroidism, heartworm, cancer, adrenal gland dysfunction, Cushing’s disease, and other pervasive, immunity-compromising problems. In some dogs, owners may have previously been advised to treat their dog with prescription cortisone medications to control mites or other conditions. These cortisone treatments can allow otherwise harmless colonies of mites to rapidly reproduce and cause skin disease.

How is Demodectic Mange Treated?

Topical Treatments

When caught in time, demodectic mange can be treated with topically or directly on the skin where it shows. Many of the products can be acquired easily over the counter, prior to a trip to the vet, and they range in degrees of effectiveness, price and method of use. Some are shampoos and others are topical sprays for either the dog or its environment. Formulations can contain a variety of chemicals or natural ingredients. For an all-natural solution, we recommend EcoSpot® for localized hot spots.


Dips are stronger, more aggressive topical treatments. It’s often advised to clip and bathe the dog first with shampoo containing benzoyl peroxide to help remove oils and skin debris. Dip for demodectic mange commonly contain an insecticide called amitraz. This is a very strong insecticide that must be used with caution. Amitraz can cause side effects to both humans and dogs, and rubber gloves should be worn when using them. Signs of improper use on a dog include vomiting, nausea, and lethargy for as much as 36 hours after use. Toy breeds can be especially susceptible to side effects of amitraz and very dilute concentrations must be used. Some dogs do not respond to this type of treatment on the first attempt and repeated applications over several weeks can be required, and because of its toxicity, the concentration should be increasingly diluted.

Oral Prescription Drug Treatments

There are several drugs that can be prescribed by veterinarians to treat demodectic mange. Drugs approved for heartworm prevention in dogs and cats can be prescribed, such as the class of drugs called ivermectins. Ivermectins used to treat parasites on cattle may also be prescribed for oral use in dogs to treat demodectic mange, however it has severe side-effects, including death. It should definitely be avoided in herding breeds, such as Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, Old English sheepdogs. Also, since dogs that have generalized demodictic mange frequently have underlying skin infections, antibiotics may be prescribed for the first several weeks of treatment.

Now for Some Good News About Demodex Mites

Demodex mite infestations are generally less severe than infestations of Sarcoptic mites (also known as scabies). Usually once they are treated, most dogs do not get re-infested, as the dog develops improved immune defenses against demodex mites. (Certain dogs however have a genetic make-up that lacks of adequate immune defense against the mites.) When treated early, demodex mites don’t have to spread.

An All-Natural Treatment for Hot Spots Caused by Demodex Mites

EcoSpot® contains only all-natural ingredients: Allantoin, Calendula Extract, Burdock Root Extract, Mullein Extract, Thyme Oil, Peppermint Oil, Food Grade Polysorbate 20, and Ionic Silver.

Since many of the problems with demodex mites cause itchy areas or hot spots, EcoSpot it extremely handy to have on hand. It works on all types of hot spots, including raw wounds from chewing and scratching, as well as irritated and hairless areas.

EcoSpot not only treats hot spots caused by demodex mites, but also treat fungus, and bacterial infections.

  • Helps clear infected areas on the skin and allows hair growth.
  • Is formulated with an all-natural, skin safe, non-toxic formula
  • Has a fresh, natural smell that counters smells from bacterial infections.

EcoSpot is easy to use. The no-rinse formula allows you to apply a quick spray to treat affected spots in just seconds each day.

Here at Vet Organics, we understand that you have many options to chose from and want the right product. That’s why we offer a 100% money back guarantee.  If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with EcoSpot Hot Spot Spray just email or call us for a complete refund.

Order EcoSpot Hot Spot Spray – 4 fl oz.

Just $21.88 plus flat $2.99 shipping in the USA.

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Don’t let your dog get generalized demodectic mange all over. Get the demodex mites under control, stop the itch, and stop them from spreading. Prevent unnecessary suffering and avoid needing toxic dips down the road. Click the Order Now button. Vet Organics staff will have EcoSpot packaged up and at the post office within 4 business hours or less.


Further Reading