Mites are external parasites that live and feed off the skin and its secretions. The three most common types of mites in dogs and cats are:
Demodex- These mites are responsible for a skin infestation called demodicosis, or demodectic mange. Demodex mites are part of the normal flora of dogs' skin, where they live in small numbers minding their own business. In certain situations, such as puppies with developing immune systems or adult dogs with immune compromise due to other illnesses, the mites can take over and cause a problem. Demodex can be passed from dog to dog, but does not usually cause a problem in healthy adult dogs.
Sarcoptes Scabeii- These mites are not normal flora of a dogs skin and their presence causes a skin infestation called Sarcoptic Mange or scabies. Sarcoptes are transmissible from dog to dog and from dog to human, although they cause only minor problems in humans. Human scabies is caused by a different species of Sarcoptes.
Ear mites- Ear mites can affect both dogs and cats, particularly kittens and puppies. They live in the ear canal and cause itchiness, inflammation and discharge. They can pass between animals.
Skin mites such as Demodex and Sarcoptes cause hair loss in a localized or generalised area, may or may not cause itchiness and are sometimes accompanied by redness, discharge or crusting. A skin scrape and microscopy are used to diagnose infection with mites. Mites on cats and dogs are treated with topical treatments, washes, oral medications in the case of demodex and antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections. They can take several weeks to clear, and regular skin scrapes are necessary to monitor progress. Dogs affected with demodex should not be bred, as the disease has a hereditary component.
Do you have any experience with mites in pets? Tell us about it in the comments!