Vaseline is an extremely well-known brand of petroleum jelly. It’s so popular that the brand name is synonymous with the product itself, kind of like how Google is a synonym for internet search engines. It’s also one of the most commonly suggested remedies for demodectic mange, although any kind of petroleum jelly is more or less acceptable. According to some people, Vaseline has been their one successful method in treating the skin problem.
Like the idea of using motor oil as a remedy for demodectic mange, the use of Vaseline as another type of cure comes from yet another old wives’ tale – an unconventional solution to a problem. Some of these age-old remedies are eventually proven to work, but others, like motor oil, are all just bunk. So which of these does Vaseline fall into, exactly?
How does one normally apply Vaseline?
The use of Vaseline is easy and straightforward: Just apply the petroleum jelly on the affected area and let it sit. There are many variations as to the frequency in which the Vaseline is applied, but generally once a day or every other day. While the Vaseline is applied on a dog’s skin, the dog must not be given baths for fear of washing away the substance.
How does Vaseline work in curing demodectic mange?
The principle of using Vaseline is as such: the thick, greasy substance is normally used as a way to trap moisture within the area of skin it’s applied to, but it can also be used as a way to deprive the demodex mites from oxygen, suffocating them in the process.
On first impressions, the idea does seem scientifically sound. Killing the mites by asphyxiation could work, as most of them burrow into the hair follicles and breed within; sealing it off would be an easy task for the Vaseline. Once that is done, the mites will die and stop their process of damaging the skin, while leaving it unharmed.
As smart as the plan sounds in theory however, some significant issues that are left unaddressed can still pop up and ruin the whole thing, such as:
1.) It’s Dirty and Messy
Petroleum jelly is a greasy, sticky substance. Usually, it’s nothing to worry about when used by humans, as it’s only used on a small surface area and care will be taken to ensure contact with foreign objects don’t occur.
But dogs are a whole other issue altogether. They’re not aware that the slop being spread all over a spot is meant to remain as-is, so they’ll continue running about and smearing the petroleum jelly all over the place without a care.
That’s not to mention the absolute frustration you will face in battling with your dog’s fur, just to get to the skin and spreading some Vaseline on it. Getting it on the hair just does not do anything for the mange otherwise.
2.) They’ll think it’s a strange new treat
Dogs, once they notice the newly-applied petroleum jelly sitting somewhere on their body, won’t hesitate a beat to investigate. Because it’s so gel-like in appearance and it smells interesting to them, soon enough they’ll start slurping it all up. Firstly, this will create a huge mess, as your dog will spread the thing all over as he licks other parts of his body, making it slimy, sticky and an altogether unpleasant petting experience thereafter.
The second problem arising from this is that your efforts in trying to treat the mange have pretty much evaporated. The Vaseline has been licked off the spot, so the suffocating effect you meant to create is no longer there. The mites will continue breeding and thriving as though nothing was ever done to them.
3.) Petroleum Jelly has no innate medical abilities whatsoever
You might think that Vaseline has to have some medicinal use, since everyone has been saying that it definitely works for demodectic mange. But does it really have medical properties?
According to doctors, not really. Traditionally, Vaseline has been used to treat cuts and burns on humans, but any effect by the product has been disproved. It seems that all that the product is good for is to protect any germs from entering the wound. Which isn’t too far off from suffocating mites on your dog, but don’t count on any skin regenerative properties along the way.
4.) It can only suffocate adult mites.
Let’s be clear on something now: I’m not saying Vaseline is inherently useless. It does have the means of sealing off any wounds or sores completely, which means it’s entirely possible to cut off the mites’ oxygen supply by blocking the hair follicles.
This solves the first part of the demodectic mange equation: killing off the adult mites that are causing the trouble. But there are two more issues that the Vaseline fails to address, and it’s also very possible that the product will be useless against said issues.
The first is regarding the mites’ eggs. Vaseline can kill the adults by cutting off the oxygen, but what about the eggs? The Petroleum jelly doesn’t have anti-parasitical properties, which means the eggs will sit unharmed until they’re ready to hatch. Only when the young mites emerge from their eggs can the Vaseline start working on them… and when that moment arrives, the gel would have worn off long ago. The only solution I can think of is to apply the Vaseline practically every day for a period of at least a month or two. This will ensure that all the mites will asphyxiate and die out, including any eggs.
The second issue concerns the underlying root of the skin problem. Using Vaseline may grant some initial success if used very carefully, but if it’s the only remedy used to get rid of demodectic mites, what’s the point then? They’ll just keep coming back (it’s impossible to keep a dog mite-free) and restart the mange if nothing else is done. And you can’t smear petroleum jelly on your dog forever.
The previous four problems already serve to highlight the flaws in the Vaseline home remedy option, and should be enough reason for you to know that it doesn’t work. But there’s one more problem that really changes the verdict from ‘maybe not’, to ‘not in a million years’.
5.) Vaseline poisoning
Vaseline is entirely made of petroleum jelly, nothing else. It’s a purely synthetic material, which means it’s not possible to get it from plants or other natural processes. This also means that it could be potentially harmful to your dog. In fact, it is.
To be fair, it’s not exactly fatal. If Vaseline is ingested via licking, it can and will induce diarrhea in your dog, giving both you and him a lousy time while completely undoing your attempts to get rid of demodectic mange. Just one simple event is painful enough – I couldn’t imagine repeating the process.
My opinion on Vaseline
The one thing that Vaseline does exactly as described is to deprive the mites from oxygen; that’s how the substance works and it does it well. Judging by the number of potential pitfalls from using this method, however, it’s quite obvious that the remedy is extremely situational – there are many problems to face if Vaseline is to be used effectively, and there is also the fact that it still doesn’t address the root causes of the mange.
In my opinion, I would skip the Vaseline, and focus more on neater, easier solutions to controlling the mites while taking care of the underlying causes. That way, you’ll have an easier time controlling the demodectic mange, and with a little persistence, possibly keep your dog mange free permanently.
If you’re not planning to use Vaseline anytime soon, do you have a solid home remedy plan in place to cure demodectic mange on your dog? If you’re desperate for a working remedy, you might want to start by looking here.