OMG! Your Dog Has Demodectic Mange!

› Demodectic Mange

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Canine Mange is caused by tiny little critters called mites.

There are two types of mites that cause two different types of mange. The first is the demodectic mite, usually seen in puppies, and occasionally older dogs. That’s what I’m talking about on this page. The common name is red mange.

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The good news is, that for puppies, it is usually a local and temporary problem which resolves without treatment.

The bad news is, if an adult comes down with demodectic mange it usually is the generalized form of the infestation which is chronic.

How Demodectic Mites Get Out Of Hand

All dogs have demodectic mange mites living on their skin. (Beginning to feel itchy, are we??) Think of this dog mange as the equivalent of the skin mite on humans. (Oh, you didn’t know you had bugs living on you? Hmm, scratching a bit more I see.)

As with most things in nature, there is usually a natural balance to it all. A puppy with a good immune system can keep the number of mites down to a manageable number. In this condition the dog looks normal to you.

The problem begins when the puppy’s immune system, which is underdeveloped when young, gets knocked for a loop. This allows the mites to multiply uncontrollably and begin to cause symptoms of itching and loss of hair. (Ok, now I’m beginning to feel creepy crawlies on me!). This can happen to a perfectly normal, healthy puppy.

The difficult part for owners (and breeders) is to leave well enough alone. Taking a “wait and see attitude” is tough. Not to mention that if you go to your vet, they figure you want them to do something to fix your pup and so they give you medication.

The reason for taking the “wait and see” attitude is so the owner can tell if this was a transient issue for an otherwise healthy puppy or if it is due to a chronically poor immune system.

In about 90% of all cases, a healthy puppy will rebound from the stress, his immune system will kick back into action within a month or so and the mites go back to their unassuming role on the skin. End of problem.

Demodectic Mite

What Kind Of Stress Starts Demodectic Mange?

Depending on the puppy’s temperament, simply going to his new home can do it. Shipping a puppy on a plane cross country can, for sure, do it too.

I know first-hand, because a friend of mine had a puppy shipped to her several years ago and he developed hair loss on his face. It took us a while to figure out he wasn’t scratching his muzzle on the bottom of the fence or some piece of furniture.

When he started losing hair around his eyes, we knew what his problem was.


Unfortunately, most skin issues can look pretty much the same with only a few tiny differences that can help with the diagnosis. So you go through the questions: is it trauma, infestation, allergy??? Hard to say a lot of the time.

A vet can do a skin scraping to see if mites are found in high numbers. However, not finding mites doesn’t rule it out as the cause. Not very helpful.

Localized Demodectic Mange

In puppies, you usually see the demodectic mange as bald spots first around the eyes, lips, mouth, or muzzle. Occasionally on the feet.

And it’s usually only a few spots, not too large, maybe an inch or so around.

It lasts around a month or two and then disappears as the puppy regains his immune system.

Generalized Demodectic Mange

Any dog over the age of 1 year that gets demodectic mange or any dog with more than about 5-6 spots is assumed to have the generalized form. This is because by one year of age, the immune system is fully developed and no stressor should allow the mites to take over.

Any puppy whose symptoms do not resolve in about 1 -2 months could be considered having the chronic form of the illness.

Some lines of dogs seem to have a generally poor immune system and so many in that family develop generalized demodectic mange. An occasional puppy with demodectic mange out of many litter however, is just a normal part of dogdom.

Treatment For Red Mange

For localized demodectic mange you really don’t have to treat. It will resolve on its own.

However, if you must… one OTC treatment is Goodwinol Ointment. Comes in a tiny container and you smear just a little on the bald spots.

Thing is you can’t get it in the eyes. Good luck with that. Try using a Q-tip to get close but not in the eye. It contains rotenone which is a pesticide, but I guess in small quantities it wouldn’t be too bad to use.

At the point where it is diagnosed as the generalized form of illness, treatment is advised in order to try to manage the mites;

That and boosting the immune system with the best food and nutrients is certainly something I would consider important. Finally, test for other illnesses that may be stressing the dog’s immune system, like hypothyroidism, cancer, etc.

For generalized mange a common prescription dip from the vet is amitraz. But it is a pretty hefty pesticide. It can cause pretty severe side effects on the dog and to you, if not used properly. Your dog may experience vomiting and sedation for twenty-four to thirty-six hours following each application.

It also carries warnings to wear gloves and have good ventilation when using. And yet…. You are expected to leave the stuff on the dog to dry. UGH!

Another OTC medication that I have on hand because it is a natural cure-all is Lime Sulfur Dip. Kills everything, pretty non-toxic too. Just stinks to the high heavens like rotten eggs. It has to be diluted before use.

Or you can try Sulfur Powder Sublimed if that is easier than liquid for you.


How do I know?… guess!

So that is the red / puppy / or demodectic mange in a nutshell. I’ll tell you about sarcoptic mange on another page. I just feel like I need a shower first…

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