Diagnosing Demodectic Mange
The cause of Demodectic Mange is a tiny mite known as the Demodex Canis. The mite cannot be seen with the naked eye and is most commonly passed to puppies through the mother within the first few days after birth. In normal conditions, these mites are not considered troublesome and do not result in mange. Mange only occurs when a puppy has an abnormal immune system that allows the mites to reproduce at higher than normal rates and multiply past the numbers that are considered helpful to canines. The most susceptible canines to this form of mange are older dogs with weakened immune systems or puppies with under developed immune systems. Some pure bred dogs are also at risk since there is evidence of an inherited susceptibility within certain breeds.
Dogs that show signs of demodectic mange may have areas of thinning hair around the eyes and lips. As the mange spreads, there may also be patches of thinning hair on the legs or feet. Less common, except in more advanced cases, is the thinning of hair on the torso or trunk of the canine.
Localized demodectic mange, classified as five or less patches present on the dog, may heal itself within six to eight weeks. Of course, if the mange begins to generalize, treatment will be necessary. Generalized mange is determined by the presence of more than five patches of affected skin on the dog. With intensive treatment, dogs can overcome the disease as hair follicles are cleaned of dead skin cells and mites. In most cases, treatment of generalized mange may have to be repeated in order to return the dog to a healthy state.
The treatment of demodectic mange that has generalized can only be done with the supervision of a veterinarian. The dog must be bathed in a medicated shampoo and be treated with a miticide. The only approved miticide for dogs, Amitraz, can cause some alarming side effects that must be monitored closely. These side effects include drowsiness, extreme lethargy, staggering gaits, vomiting, and diarrhea. All of these conditions can indicate a life threatening situation for the dog. If any of these occur, it is important to rinse the miticide off the dog and contact a veterinarian immediately. It should also be mentioned that puppies are more likely to experience these side effects than an adult dog as they generally have weaker and more sensitive immune system.