Demodicosis in Dogs, What Are the Symptoms and the Treatment for Your Pet

You may have noticed that your dog is not in a very good mood and it started leaking its legs and scratching its face. Your beloved fluffy friend is losing an unusual amount of hair. Plus you see dandruff appearing. Your dog may have demodicosis. This parasite may make things worse for your pet. So, let’s see together the symptoms and the treatment that should be applied.

Symptoms and Treatment

Demodicosis is a common inflammatory parasitic skin disease. It is thought to be related to a genetic or immunological disorder.

The disease allows mites from normal skin to multiply in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. This leads to alopecia, erythema, scaling, hair loss, pustules, furunculosis, and secondary infections.

During the course of the disease, the dog’s muzzle, forelimbs, and the entire surface of the body may be affected.

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What Can Cause the Infection?

The parasite is a common inhabitant of the dog’s skin. This is evidenced by PCR studies demonstrating that small populations of the mite colonize most areas of the skin of healthy individuals. Ticks are transmitted to the newborn by breast contact with the mother during the first 2-3 days of life.

The host’s immune system usually keeps tick numbers under control.

Dogs with generalized demodicosis have a genetic immunodeficiency. It is recommended to avoid the breeding of the dog in this case.

Important factors in pathogenesis include rupture of the skin barrier, inflammation, secondary bacterial infections, type IV hypersensitivity reaction, which may explain the symptoms associated with this disease.

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Three Distinct Types of Demodex

There are three morphologically distinct types of Demodex mites in dogs.

Demodex canis: This is considered the most common and spread type of the parasite. It lives in the hair follicle. It has an elongated shape and an adult type measures around 170-225 µm, plus it has 4 pairs of legs. With its measures, you obviously can’t see it witht the naked eye.

D cornei is a short-bodied tick. The short-bodied Demodex mite, which may be more surface-dwelling (stratum corneum), similar to D. gatoi in cats;

Dinjai is a long-bodied form. Relative newbie. It can be found in the sebaceous glands. All stages of its life are much longer than similar stages of D. canis. The length of an adult is 330-370 microns (about twice as long as D. canis).

What Is the Risk Group?

Demodicosis can occur in dogs under 12 months of age. In small breed dogs at 18 months. In large and giant breeds or younger as a result of compromised immunity at 2 years of age.

It can also develop in puppies due to an immature immune system. An increased prevalence in some breeds indicates a hereditary basis for demodicosis in adolescents, especially for the generalized form.

In dogs older than 18 months, disease may result from drug-induced immune suppression. For example, glucocorticoids, cyclosporine, chemotherapy, or systemic disease. Therefore, such patients should undergo a detailed veterinary examination. Plus, a complete diagnostic examination to identify underlying diseases.

The available data indicate that successful treatment of demodicosis in a dog can promote remission. However, up to 56% of affected adult dogs have been reported to have no detectable underlying disease. Many cases diagnosed between 2 and 4 years of age have had persistent problems since puppyhood. So the time of onset may be less clear.

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​​Types of Demodicosis In Dogs

Demodicosis in a dog can manifest itself both in a localized and in a generalized form.

Differentiation is important, as most localized cases tend to have a very favorable prognosis. It usually resolves without specific treatment.

There is no universally accepted definition of what canine demodicosis looks like. Plus, no features are identified that clearly indicate differences between species, but localized demodicosis has been defined as having 6 or fewer lesions less than 2.5 cm in diameter.

Generalized demodicosis in dogs can be defined as one in which there are more than 12 lesions or more.


Symptoms may look impressive. As there are lesions, big chunks of dandruff and loss of hair.

Dogs older than two years of the Terrier breed are most often susceptible to the disease.

Skin scrapings and hair plucking are the traditional tests done to diagnose the disease.

One method of diagnosis using adhesive tape. The tape is applied to the area under study and the skin is squeezed before removing the tape. The study reported that this method significantly increased mite detection. It is a better technique compared to deep skin scraping. No significant difference was observed between the two methods regarding the number of eggs or nymphs.

Generally, a skin biopsy is not considered an appropriate diagnostic test to rule out problems. Collected sample is generally small, mites tend to get smaller.

In cases of generalized demodex in puppies, as a properly balanced diet and parasite control play a very important role in recovery, a general health assessment, including blood and urine tests, is necessary to rule out a congenital disease.

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Treatment of Demodicosis In Dogs

Systemic antiparasitic therapy is not required for localized demodicosis. There is no evidence that localized cases lead to generalized ones. This does not mean that there is no cure.

Poor nutrition will certainly play a role in a pet’s immune system, and a careful assessment of the diet and correct dietary recommendations play an important role. Balanced, high-quality commercial diets are generally recommended.

Fecal assessment is also important, as is appropriate deworming.

Dermatologists often recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide .

It is known to help clear the follicles of the contents. But the drug does dry the skin and should be followed by a moisturizer.

Generalized Demodicosis In Dogs

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Be aware that after the start of treatment for generalized demodicosis, the pet should be observed, repeating scrapings every 4 weeks. If one treatment regimen is unsuccessful, then try another.

Follicular demodicosis in dogs is associated with a bacterial skin infection.

Secondary bacterial and yeast infections of the skin and ears are common problems. They aggravate skin disease by causing or contributing to itching. Identification and treatment of these secondary infections are very important for the successful prevention of the disease.

It is extremely important to improve nutrition by introducing a balanced, age-appropriate diet, as well as treating intestinal parasites or other stressors, especially in puppies, strays, or rescued, sick dogs.

Generally, vets treat dogs with demodicosis in external consultation. However, animals with severe generalized demodicosis and complications may need to be hospitalized for deeper care.

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