Your Dog’s Hair Loss Could be a Sign of Demodex
Most dogs can tolerate a small number of mites. However, a mite infestation can pose serious health problems for puppies.
Demodex mites live in the hair follicles of most dogs. Most dogs have a small number of mites. Usually, the mites are harmless and are not contagious to dogs, humans, or other species. However, in certain instances, based upon age, gender, genetic factors, and disorders of the immune system, the number of mites found can quickly skyrocket.
Typical signs of infestation with these mites can vary, but generally involves hair loss, redness of the affected area, and reoccurring bacterial skin infections.
There are two forms of the disease: juvenile onset (usually localized and self-limiting) and adult onset (usually generalized and much more serious).
In the generalized form, two or more feet can be involved, more than five areas of hair loss or redness exist, or the entire animal can be affected. Adult onset forms are more difficult to treat and may indicate something is interfering with or suppressing the immune system. Chronic drug use (for instance steroids), cancer chemotherapy drugs, and other diseases can all be underlying causes and lead to adult onset Demodex.
Juvenile-onset forms of the syndrome ordinarily occurs in puppies under 18 months, is usually very localized, and classically as much as 80 percent of affected dogs return to normal within three months with no treatment of their lesions.
These mites are diagnosed by performing a deep skin scrape and identifying them under a microscope. For some dogs a skin biopsy may be necessary for diagnosis. Juvenile-onset Demodex usually responds to a variety of treatments. Generalized forms of the disease do not respond until the underlying cause is identified and treated.
For puppies, your veterinarian can recommend several safe and effective therapies to eliminate the mite. Treatments usually continue until two to three consecutive skin scrapes are negative for the mites. Most veterinarians believe this to be a genetic problem and not something you caused through neglect of your puppy. For any suspicious skin lesion, see your veterinarian.