September 15, 2008 "Ask Seth"

My 8-week old puppy has been diagnosed with demodex. How did he get it and is it treatable?

Dear Seth,

My 8 week old puppy has recently been diagnosed with demodex. I know that this is a skin parasite, but if the mother never had demodex then how did Bentley get mange? Is it treatable?

Sarah, Utah


Demodex in dogs is commonly found in the hair follicle and oil glands in the skin of dogs and usually presents no problem. Usually these infestations are self-limiting because the animal is able to cease the reproduction, growth of the mites, and even repair the damage to the skin. Once eliminated, the dog's immune response will eliminate any new demodex that the dog may come in contact with. However, there are certain dogs that lack genetics to create the immune factors to create a defense and can be predisposed to a severe unresponsive case of demodex.

Because demodex is commonly found in healthy dog’s follicles and oil glands, even though the dog did not have signs of demodex, it probably was present. Because there were no skin lesions, does not mean the mites are not present.

Treatments for demodex need to be discussed with your veterinarian and they will devise a plan of action for resolving this skin issue. For small areas of infestation, some veterinarians will not treat because these infestations are self-limiting. These cases are closely monitored for increased activity in affected areas. There are prescriptions that the veterinarian can proscribe which include topical medications, injections and even oral medications. The breed of the dog can influence which treatment protocol the veterinarian chooses.

Seth Mayersohn, CVT

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