Red Mange In Dogs
Red mange in dogs, or Demodex, or Demodectic mange, is caused by a mite called Demodex canis. It is a skin disease that mostly affects young dogs, elderly dogs, and dogs with a compromised immune system. These mites are normally present on dogs. It is only when the immune system is unable to control them that they can become a problem and lead to itching, redness and sores on the dog’s body.
Red mange in dogs is caused by the Demodex canis mite. This mite is present on the skin of virtually all dogs, all the time. It is passed to puppies not long after birth from their mothers. The mite can’t be seen without a microscope but it lives in the dog’s hair follicles and it resembles a tiny alligator in shape. The presence of these mites has nothing to do with sanitation or cleanliness. They are present in dogs that live in well-kept houses as well as kennels.
The Demodex canis mite lives its entire life cycle on the dog. The life cycle appears to take 20 to 35 days from the time the mite hatches on the dog. In order for the mites to be transferred to another dog they have to be physically touching, which is how most puppies are infected by their mothers. The mites cannot survive off the dog. If your dog does have Red mange in dogs then he will not be able to pass it casually to other dogs or to you. The mites will not be transferred to your home.
The characteristic red spots or lesions of Red mange usually first appear around a puppy’s head since this is the area where the puppy is in closest contact with his mother. However, most puppies and dogs are immune to Demodectic mange and their immune system prevents the mites from becoming a serious problem.
Red mange affects all dogs equally, regardless of breed. Males and females are equally affected. Localized red mange, which shows only a few sores or lesions, usually develops on otherwise healthy animals as the result of a temporary illness or some kind of stressful event in the puppy or dog’s life. Localized Red mange is most common in dogs that are less than a year old.
Generalized Red mange is more likely to be an inherited condition related to the dog’s immune system and it is affects adult dogs more often than young dogs. There are two versions of generalized Red mange depending on the dog’s age when the illness begins: juvenile, which affects young dogs, and adult, which affects older dogs. The juvenile form of the illness will often self-cure as the young dog’s immune system matures. The adult form of the illness may develop in conjunction with another disease, such as cancer, a metabolic disease, or an endocrine disorder. Or, generalized Red mange in adult dogs may result from a therapy to treat one of these diseases. It can be very hard to cure this form of the disease.
Symptoms of Red mange usually include red patches on the dog’s head, legs and abdomen. Untreated, the patches can lead to hair loss. As the lesions worsen they can form crusty sores.
In localized Red mange there are usually five or fewer lesions. Generalized Red mange usually involves more than five lesions over the dog’s entire body. Red mange in either form usually starts appearing after the dog is four months old.
Red mange may include the following symptoms:
- hair loss
- red patches of skin
- crusty sores
- greasy, moist skin
Hair loss is usually the first sign of Red mange and it typically begins around the dogs lips, eyes and other places on the head. The patches may or may not itch. With localized mange, when there are just a few lesions, you may notice a few red patches on a puppy’s head and forelegs when he is between three and six months of age. These patches will usually heal on their own as the puppy’s immune system becomes stronger. If the patches persist the dog will need treatment.
In dogs where the entire body is affected by lesions, as with generalized Red mange, the dog will usually begin losing hair all over the body. This will include the dog’s head, abdomen, legs and paws. The skin will begin to look and feel crusty. It may crack open and ooze. Although the dog may not have much hair left the skin itself may start to feel oily. The dog may develop secondary bacterial infections. Left untreated, the dog may develop a fever, experience loss of appetite, and become dull and lethargic. Dogs in this condition will need quick treatment.
Red mange is usually easy to diagnose by a qualified veterinarian simply by the dog’s outer appearance. However, it will be necessary for your veterinarian to take a skin scraping or do a skin biopsy to confirm the presence of the mites. The mites cannot be seen without a microscope. The mere presence of mites does not mean that your dog has Red mange since the mites are normally present on almost all dogs. Your vet will need to confirm the presence of the mites along with the presence of the lesions on the dog’s body.
If you have an older dog with Red mange your vet should test your dog for other disease that could be indicated in conjunction with Demodex, such as hypothyroidism, cancer, and Cushing’s disease. Your vet will also need to talk to you about your dog’s experiences with corticosteroids (if any) and other immune-suppressing drugs.
Most Red mange is the localized variety which is easier to treat. This form of the disease is treated topically using lotions, shampoos, and dips. One recommended treatment is Goodwinol (a 1 percent rotenone ointment). A 5 percent benzoyl peroxide gel can also be applied to your dog’s lesions daily. Using a benzoyl peroxide shampoo and making changes in your dog’s diet may also be recommended. Adding fatty acids to a dog’s diet has helped many dogs. In many cases localized lesions will self-heal using this protocol and should not be overly medicated. You should be prepared for your dog to get worse before he gets better.
If your dog has generalized Red mange it is usually necessary to treat the dog more aggressively. A small percentage (30 to 50 percent) of dogs that develop generalized Red mange will get well on their own without any treatment but it is best to provide treatment. Treatment for this form of the disease can take a long time and be costly. The most commonly used treatment for generalized Red mange is Amitraz, which is usually sold under the name Mitaban. Amitraz is a prescription dip and it should be used carefully. If you are using this product on your dog you should wear gloves and use it in an area where there is plenty of ventilation. If you have a dog with medium or long coat you may need to clipper the coat short in order for the dip to thoroughly reach your dog’s skin. Before using the dip you should bathe your dog with a benzoyl peroxide shampoo to remove oil and crusty deposits from the skin.
If you use this treatment method for generalized Red mange you will probably need to dip your dog 4 to 14 times, at two week intervals. Your veterinarian should take another skin scraping after you have dipped your dog three or four times to see if mites are still present. You will need to continue to dip your dog until the mites have been gone, per skin scrapings, for two treatments in a row. Your dog will not be completely cured until about a year after you have finished treating him.
Some dogs are sensitive to the dip and you should be careful when using it. Dogs may become drowsy or nauseated. Some toy breeds are especially sensitive. You should use the dip at half-strength on these breeds.
Some breeds may not respond well to this treatment protocol and you may have to adjust the dips after consulting with your veterinarian. There are some off-label products that are also used for treating Red mange. Ivermectin and Milbemycin oxime are both used for treating Red mange. These ingredients are found in the heartworm medications Heartgard and Interceptor. You will need to consult with your veterinarian about using these drugs and the proper dosage. Moxidectin, another Ivermectin derivative, has also been effective against demodectic mange.
If your dog has Red mange it is very possible that he may also have a secondary skin infection. Your veterinarian may need to give him antibiotics. Older dogs are also likely to have problems with their immune system so your veterinarian should check into these possible problems.
Red mange in dogs itself is not inherited. However, the immune system problems which can allow Red mange to develop may be genetic. For this reason it is best if dogs that are subject to Red mange are not used for breeding.
Red mange is almost always treatable and controllable unless the dog has a very suppressed immune system. If your dog has generalized Red mange your veterinarian should check for other accompanying diseases that could also be signs of a compromised immune system.