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Does Your Dog Have Demodectic Mange? 5 Ways To Identify The Symptoms

Dog with mange scavenging for food.

Source: Wiki Commons

Demodectic mange is a condition caused by the demodex mite, and is one of two possible types of mange that can affect your dog. Mange is responsible for many different skin problems known to dogs, and they are resilient enough to require constant care and attention in order to get rid of them.

The first step any dog owner should do is to identify demodectic mange as the skin problem affecting their dog. Only by understanding the exact problem can they start to give their dogs the appropriate treatment and help them on their way to recovery.

This article will list up to four different symptoms attributed to the skin problem, as well as a sure-fire method of knowing if your dog has demodectic mange. Let’s start right away with the first one on the list.

1.)    Hair Loss

The loss of hair is a standard symptom for most dog skin problems, but it’s a hallmark of mange-related symptoms. For dogs with demodectic mange, hair loss occurs because the demodex mite (the main culprit of the problem) specifically seeks out the hair follicles to live in. The irritation caused by the mites that live in these affected follicles cause the hairs to fall out of them, thus making the impression that the dog is losing hair abnormally. If mange is what your dog is suffering from, you may notice that some parts of his fur look rough and frayed, or even completely bald.

A dog with this type of mange will experience hair loss starting from his face, before proceeding to spread to the other parts of the head. If left unchecked, the front parts of his body will start to show a loss of fur as well. In a worst-case scenario, this will cover the entirety of the dog’s body, leaving him with only small patches of intact fur.

Most dog owners and vets have remarked that the face is usually the starting point of the hair loss. In my opinion, I think it’s very possible that this symptom can easily be attributed to demodectic mange.

An example of hair loss.

An example of hair loss. Source: Wiki Commons

Think about it: mites and other parasites always enter a host from a specific point, where they can find an easy way to ‘cross over’ to the other side. Leeches do this by waiting for a suitable target to wade into their waters, which allows them to hop on (so to speak). Mites on the other hand, rely on the dog’s tendency to poke its nose (quite literally) at things to investigate its surroundings.

Having been given this rare opportunity to attack a new host, the mites would gratefully jump on board and start making themselves at home – right on the poor dog’s head!

Aside from the face, the mites can also affect the front legs and paws in the initial stages of the problem. This will obviously spread to other parts of the body if the problem is not addressed in time, and will lead to more symptoms, such as skin inflammation.

2.)    Inflamed Skin

The inflammation of a dog’s skin usually causes it to become red and swollen, and it can be easily seen due to the prior loss of hair. Inflamed skin usually appears in spots where the hair has already fallen off, but some of it can also be hidden under surviving patches of fur. In some cases, sores and lesions will also appear on patches of inflamed skin on some parts of the body. Of course, the presence of the sores will make any dog look unsightly, which is another side-effect of having mange.

3.)    Itchiness

The affected skin of a dog with demodectic mange can get somewhat itchy, and will inspire him to give himself a good scratch. It’s also very possible that your dog may give himself new sores and lesions if he scratches himself too hard, as well as increase the rate of hair loss.

While not really considered a good thing, it’s worth noting that a dog with mange does not suffer as much from this symptom as compared to another dog with fleas.

4.)    Oozing liquid from inflamed skin

Before we move on to this next symptom, it’s necessary to talk a bit more about demodectic mange in general.

There are two classifications of demodectic mange, the first one being a ‘localized’ problem. Most dogs that contract demodectic mange usually only have a localized problem, meaning that in their case, the problem will correct itself over time. The ones that do not (approximately 10% of all dogs) will slowly progress to a more serious phase, called the ‘generalized’ state.

So, how do we know if a dog has the localized or generalized problem? Simple: the dog with localized demodectic mange will only ever have up to five small spots, usually focused on the front parts of the body. Also, he will only experience slight hair loss and inflamed skin, and nothing else.

Reddish Skin

Example of reddish skin. Source: Wiki Commons

A dog with generalized mange, on the other hand, will have more than six problem areas on the body. Large parts of the skin may become bald and reddish. To top it all off, there is a possibility that this fourth symptom could appear: a sticky, greasy liquid that covers large parts of the affected skin.

The amount produced is only enough to cover the surface in a film of sticky ooze, which will dry up and harden into a crusty texture. When scraped away, the hardened liquid comes off in flakes, and a new batch of liquid will come right up soon after that.

This symptom indicates the severity of the mange; if your dog has reddish skin with sticky ooze on it, it means that the condition has gotten much worse since the start of the problem, and you’ll need to spend more time mending it.

How to Diagnose Demodectic Mange

We’ve discussed a bit about all the symptoms associated with demodectic mange, but let’s face it – those problems are all pretty generic, aren’t they? Most of them appear as symptoms of other problems as well. That’s why you’ll need a way to be sure that demodectic mange is what you’re looking at, rather than fleas or anything else.

We now know that the overpopulation of demodex mites on your dog is the cause of the problem. Therefore, if we somehow manage to find evidence of an abnormally high amount of mites anywhere, it clearly means that your dog has demodectic mange.

Picture of a Demodex Mite. If you look closely, you can see the legs resembling a catapillar. Ew!

Picture of a Demodex Mite. Source: Wiki Commons

The problem is, these mites are so tiny that you can’t see them with your own eyes; you need a microscope for that. Since I’m betting that you don’t have one at home, you’ll need to visit the vet to get him checked out that way.

When you do see your vet, tell him about your suspicions of demodectic mange, and that you want a skin scraping done for your dog.

In case you were wondering, the term ‘skin scraping’ literally means scraping your dog’s skin with it and depositing the contents on a specimen tray for examination under a microscope. If you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective), you may get to see lots of cone-shaped creatures moving around under the lens. Those are demodex mites, and it means your dog officially has demodectic mange.

Conclusion

The four symptoms I’ve highlighted above, as well as the diagnostic process are all indications of demodectic mange. Using them as a guideline, you’ll be able to find out if your dog has the skin condition, and start the necessary treatments.

I do need to stress the following, however: If your dog is obviously suffering, or having any physical difficulties, do not hesitate to rush him to the vet! Demodectic mange may only be a skin problem, but if left untreated, it’s a gateway for more serious problems that could be harming your dog internally. Never take a chance with your dog’s life by solely relying on self-diagnosis, and get it checked out!

Related posts:

  1. Demodectic Mange: 4 Questions You Need To Ask
  2. Dog Mange: Why Bugs Are Mean

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