My dog has demodex mites

My dog has demodex mites - is this a problem for my family?

The demodex mite is the most common cause of ‘mange’ in dogs. Another type of mite that causes ‘mange’ symptoms is the sarcoptes mite. The main thing to know about demodex is that it is not transmissible to humans; it is a “personal problem” for the dog.  Sarcoptes, however, is zoonotic- meaning it could infect humans who have contact with the infected dog.

The demodex mite is found normally on the skin of dogs and it can live there without causing problems. Typically it is not contagious between dogs in the household. These mites live in the hair follicles and only become a problem when they reproduce out of control. This increase in reproduction is directly linked to the dog’s own immune system not being able to keep the numbers under control. This lack of ‘immunity’ is genetically based. When this happens, hair loss, inflammation and other signs of ‘mange’ begin.

Certain breeds of dogs are genetically more susceptible to demodectic mange: pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers, German Shepherds, Shar peis and “bully breeds” such as the English bulldog and Boxer. There are two different kinds of demodectic mange – juvenile onset and adult onset. Your veterinarian will perform a skin scrape to determine if the mite is present and will take other factors into consideration before diagnosing juvenile vs. adult onset. Distinguishing between these two is very important for the treatment plan and does not depend solely on the age of the dog.

Sarcoptic mange is very, very itchy and contagious to both humans and other pets. If your dog develops a rash with hair loss, the skin scrape test allows the veterinarian to distinguish the types of mites under the microscope.