Demodex Mites

What is it?

Demodectic Mange is a parasitic skin disease that is caused by the parasite Demodex Canis (the demodex mite) which lives inside the root of hair follicles. They are lightly coloured oval shaped mites that are so small they can only be seen under a microscope. These mites are passed on from the mother dog and can live on all dogs their entire lives without causing any skin problems.

The majority of Demodex mite skin conditions are seen in younger dogs due to their lowered immune system. Healthy adult dogs rarely have problems with mites, only in cases where their immune system is suppressed due to another underlying disease.

How can I tell whether it is Demodectic Mange and how is it diagnosed?

Localised Demodicosis

Dogs with localised demodicosis will present with bald patches of skin or thinning hair loss. It is generally not itchy, unless there is secondary bacterial infection of the skin.

Generalised Demodicosis

Dogs with generalised demodicosis present with more substantial areas of hair loss. In severe cases, it can involve the entire body. Many cases are exacerbated by secondary bacterial skin infections resulting in itching, redness, hot and painful skin.


Demodex mites can only be seen under a microscope therefore your veterinarian will perform a skin scraping. This involves scratching the surface of the skin with a paraffin oil and a blunt blade. Some skin cells will be shed and mites will be scraped out of the roots of the hair follicles. This sample is placed on a microscope slide and viewed very closely for evidence of mites.


Your veterinarian will select the most appropriate treatment for your dog. It may involve oral or injectable anti-parasitic medications, and if there is a secondary bacterial skin infection antibiotics or medicated shampoos may also be required. Demodectic mange can be difficult to treat, and some dogs with demodex mites can take 3-12 months to resolve. It is important that you follow directions carefully and attend any revisit appointments recommended by your vet.

If you are worried that your dog has hair loss, we recommend you make an appointment with your vet to have the correct diagnosis made and therefore get your pet back to best health as soon as possible!

Itchy Scratchy Pets

Do you have a pet that is continually scratching, licking and biting itself? Are you waking up in the middle of the night to a distressed and irritated pet? Well you are not alone! Your pet could be suffering from allergic contact dermatitis (Atopy Dermatitis).

Just like us, pets suffer from skin conditions and allergies. If not treated, these conditions can worsen and possibly take longer to clear. The can also be incredibly uncomfortable for your furry friend!

Allergic dermatitis occurs when pets have a reaction to their external environment. Contact allergies cause a reaction that causes your pet to develop irritated skin. Some of these contact allergies can include grass, plants, carpets or wool.

Atopy allergies refer to the airborne particles that cause an allergy, for example plant pollens, mould spores or house dust.

Symptoms of allergic dermatitis

  • Skin becomes dry, scaly, smelly and thickened
  • Bumps on skin
  • Red and inflamed skin (particularly under the ‘armpits’ or ‘belly’)
  • Pets are seen scratching, biting, licking or rubbing up against things
  • Skin is painful to touch
  • Hair loss

What to do if my pet starts showing symptoms?

You need to take your pet to see a veterinarian. They will perform a full body examination, possibly perform skin tests to establish what is causing the allergy and arrange a suitable management plan to prevent the condition reoccurring. In some cases skin allergies can be related to other medical conditions, therefore it is important to rule this out first. The longer a skin problem dismissed the more difficult it can be to treat and often this prolongs the healing process.

Reverse Sneezing

What is it?

Have you ever heard your dog make a loud breathing or snorting sound where you think they may be choking, suffocating or even having a seizure? After a minute or so it goes away and you thinking what just happened!

Well don’t stress, it might have well been a reverse sneeze or ‘pharyngeal gag reflex’. With a normal sneeze air is pushed out of the nose, but in a reverse sneeze a dog makes long inspirations into the nose rapidly and soft palate begins to spasm.

Now its important to make sure your dog isn’t actually choking or having difficultly breathing, but if you have heard this sound before its likely to be a reverse sneeze.

Insect Bites

Dogs are cats are curious and if they think chasing or sniffing a bee or wasp is fun they are going to do it! Generally dogs and cats get stung on the face from rolling around in the soft green grass.

Stings can be painful and can cause facial swelling around the entire face, lips and eyes. They can also cause weakness and breathing difficulties.

What to do if an insect stings my pet:

  1. If you feel comfortable, remove the sting.
  2. Keep your pet quite and avoid exercise. Exercise could increase swelling and pain to the sting site.
  3. Keep a close eye on your pet.
  4. Seek Veterinary help.

Some dogs can cats can suffer a severe allergic reaction to an insect bite and in this case it may lead to death. In this case if you know your pet have been stung contact your Veterinarian immediately.

Paw Licking

Many owners talk about their dogs licking their paws and most of the time they have no idea why their pet is doing this. There are many potential causes of the annoying paw licking problem.


  1. Injury – Your dog may have an injury to their paw. Watch out for cracked pads, split nails, sore toes, redness between pads or an object stuck in their paw such as a grass seed, stick or spiky plant seeds.
  2. Stress and obsession – Some dogs will lick their paws for behavioural reasons. Paw licking can be comforting to an anxious dog. Some dogs who originally had an injury have then continued licking as a learnt behaviour.
  3. Arthritis – Similarly, dogs will often lick a painful joint as a comforting mechanism.
  4. Fungal or bacterial infections – Nasty bugs can grow in the skin folds of dogs’ paws. When infected, the entire paw can become very painful and itchy.
  5. Allergies – Dogs with skin allergies will often have constant irritation between the toes. They may be allergic to environmental pollens, grasses or dust mites or may even have a food allergy.


At any stage when your dog licks his paws you should seek veterinary advice. The longer you leave it the worse the problem can get.

Common treatment options

Depending on the cause of irritation, different treatment options may be recommended, such as:

  • Anxiety treatment – training or medication
  • Topical medications (e.g. creams or medicated shampoos)
  • Oral medications (e.g. antibiotics, anti-inflammatories etc)

Hot Spots

What are hotspots?

A hotspot is an itchy rash that appears moist and may ooze a clear or infected looking discharge. They have a distinct appearance, and the surrounding hair is often matted and smelly. Hotspots generally occur around the head, neck and rump areas, although they can be found wherever there is a skin irritation. Breeds prone to the development of hotspots include Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German Shepherds.

They usually begin from your pet scratching at a particular area regularly, for a potentially wide range of reasons. Eventually the area becomes a favourable site for bacterial proliferation. The surrounding skin begins to break down further and the skin becomes extremely itchy and inflamed.


Due to the distinct appearance of a hotspot, your vet will be able to diagnose it straight away. However, identifying the underlying cause, or primary reason for the skin irritation is most important. The underlying cause can vary considerably. Some common causes include fleas and flea allergy dermatitis, an ear infection, other allergies including those to food and airborne pollens, regular swimming or exposure to moisture, and even just warm humid weather. In some cases your vet may take a small sample of the infected skin and examine it under a microscope.


Firstly the fur around the infected skin will need to be clipped off to ensure all of the skin irritation is revealed. Then the area will be cleaned, usually with an antibacterial, antiseptic solution. Once the area is clean and dry a topical anti-inflammatory/antibiotic cream will be applied to reduce any localised irritation. This cream will also be used at home and generally applied twice daily to the affected area. Your pet will be sent home with a course of antibiotics and often a cortisone tablet to reduce any inflammation while treating the infection. 


In the case where a hot spot is extremely infected and painful to clip and disinfect, effective topical treatment may not be possible whilst your pet is awake, therefore sedation may be required. By placing them under sedation it will allow us to clean and treat the area without your pet being in any pain or discomfort.

How to prevent hotspots

  • If you notice your pet scratching, have a good close look at the area
  • See a vet if the skin is reddened, flaky or moist
  • Keep your pet’s hair short during the summer months
  • Use a flea treatment regularly
  • Clip away any matted fur

Should my pet wear sunscreen?

Skin cancer does not only affect humans, dogs and cats are at risk too. So do we need to apply sunscreen to our pets to protect them from the sun?

Well believe it or not the sun can cause serious damage to our four-legged friends. If left out in the searing sun for too long their skin can burn resulting in severe damage.

Benign and malignant skin tumours?

Skin cancers that affect the skin can be either benign or malignant. The most dangerous of skin cancers is the melanoma, mast cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Benign tumours are slow growing and are generally move freely in the subcutaneous tissue when palpated. Malignant tumours spread rapidly and invade surrounding issues, becoming inflamed, red and ulcerated.


Your veterinarian may be able to identify a lump by its appearance, however to make a definite diagnosis a sample of the lump is removed through a very simple procedure known as a fine need aspirate. A thin needle is inserted into the lump and a sample is taken and placed onto a glass slide to view under a microscope.

In some cases where a larger sample is required for testing a biopsy punch may be needed. This procedure is usually performed under sedation or local anaesthetic. These samples are sent to laboratory where a pathologist examines them and reports the results to us usually within a week’s time.


Once your veterinarian has diagnosed the lump they then will be able to plan the most suitable treatment for your pet. The location of the tumour can affect how the lump is treated. Surgically removing benign tumours is not always recommended, however malignant tumours should be removed. These tumours require a large excision to ensure all the cancerous cells are removed. Additional treatment like chemotherapy may be required dependent on the severity of the tumour. Click here for more about chemotherapy.

We highly recommend having any lumps and bumps you find on your pet examined. Malignant lumps can grow dangerously fast and in a matter of weeks can double in size and spread to other parts of the body.

How can I prevent skin cancer?

So the answer to whether you ‘should apply sunscreen to your pets’ is yes. Ensure it is a ‘pet’ sunscreen, there are plenty on the market that would be suitable for your pet. Always make sure there is plenty of shade for your pet so they can avoid the brisk sun if they need to. Pet’s that have white or pale skin will more likely suffer from sunburn.

Remember early detection is very important! Don’t wait to see if the lump grows, have it checked out by your veterinarian.


What is ringworm, and what causes it?

Ringworm is a skin disease caused by a fungus.  Because the lesions are often circular, it was once thought to be caused by a worm curling up in the tissue.  However, the condition has nothing to do with a worm.

There are several fungal species affecting dogs which can cause the disease that we call ringworm.  These may also affect humans.  The fungi live in hair follicles and cause the hair shafts to break off at the skin line.  This usually results in round patches of hair loss.  As the fungus multiplies, the lesions may become irregularly shaped and spread over the dog’s body.

How long does it take to get it?

The incubation period is 10-12 days.  This means that following exposure to the fungus, about 10-12 days will pass before any lesions occur. 

How is ringworm diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made in one of 3 ways:

  1. Identification of the typical “ringworm” lesions on the skin
  2. Fluorescence of infected hairs under a special light (however, not all the species of fungi fluoresce)
  3. Culture of the hair for the fungus. The last method is the most accurate, but it may take up to 2-3 weeks for us to obtain a result

How is it transmitted?

Transmission occurs by direct contact between infected and non-infected individuals.  It may be passed from dogs to cats and visa versa.  It may also be passed from dogs or cats to people and visa versa.  If your child has ringworm, it may have been transmitted from your pet or from another child at school.  Adult humans usually are resistant to infection unless there is a break in the skin (a scratch, etc.), but children are quite susceptible.  If you or your family members have suspicious skin lesions, check with your family doctor.

Transmission may also occur from the infected environment, so-called fomite transmission.  This is often the method of transmission between animals in a household when the same brushes and combs are used. The fungal spores may be killed using a dilution of chlorine bleach and water.

How is it treated?

There are several means of treatment.  The specific method(s) chosen for your dog will depend on the severity of the infection, how many pets are involved, if there are children in the household, and how difficult it will be to disinfect your pets’ environment.  We have indicated the measures most likely to be effective in this particular case.

  1. Griseofulvin. This is a drug that is concentrated deep in the hair follicles where it can reach the site of active fungal growth.  Griseofulvin should be given daily.  Dogs with active lesions should receive the tablets for a minimum of 30 days but we will have to check the dog to ensure that the appropriate progress is being maintained.  At that time, your dog should be rechecked to be sure the infection is adequately treated.These tablets are not absorbed from the stomach unless there is fat in the stomach at the time they are given.  This can be accomplished by feeding a high fat diet, such as a rich canned dog food or a small amount of fat trimmings from meats or by mixing corn oil or other cooking oil in with a small meal or by allowing the dog to drink some rich cream. This is the most important part of the treatment.  If you are not successful in giving the tablets, please telephone.  If you are aware of fat consumption having caused a problem for your dog in the past or if your dog has had an episode of pancreatitis, please let us know immediately.
  2. Topical antifungal medication. Apply one of these products to the affected areas once daily for 10 days.  Do not risk getting it in your dog’s eyes by treating lesions very near the eye.
  3. Baths using an antifungal shampoo. A bath should be given 3 times on an every other day schedule.  Bathe exposed but unaffected pets once.  These baths are important in getting the spores off the hairs so they do not drop into the environment and result in re-exposure.  A lather should be formed and left on for 5 minutes before rinsing.
  4. Lime Sulphur Dip. This is the traditional treatment for animals affected with ringworm and is effective.  It is done twice a week for the first two weeks then once weekly for 4-6 weeks. Other in-contact animals should also receive the treatment at least once.  If any develop ringworm lesions, they should also receive griseofulvin. Lime sulphur does have an objectionable odour, tarnishes jewellery and can be irritant to sensitive skin.  It is advisable to wear gloves if applying this form of treatment.
  5. Shaving of the dog’s hair around the affected areas. This will remove the infected hair. This is invariably undertaken in full coated animals to accelerate the recovery period.

What should I expect from treatment?

Treatment will not produce immediate results.  The areas of hair loss will get larger before they begin to get smaller.  Within 1-2 weeks, the hair loss should stop, there should be no new areas of hair loss, and the crusty appearance of the skin should subside and the skin look more normal.  We will in any case wish to monitor progress.  After at least two weeks, your dog should be checked again

How long will my dog be contagious?

Infected pets remain contagious for about 3 weeks if aggressive treatment is used.  Contagion will last longer if only minimal measures are taken or if instructions regarding treatment are not diligently followed.  Minimising exposure to other dogs or cats and to your family members is recommended during this period.

I have heard that some dogs are never cured.  Is this true?

When treatment is completed, ringworm should be cured.  Although a carrier state can exist, this usually occurs because treatment is not long enough or aggressive enough or because there is some underlying disease compromising the immune system.

A Lifelearn Product from:.

Arthur Webster & Associates Pty Ltd

P O Box 438,  PYMBLE  NSW  2073  Australia


Mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by microscopic mites. Two different mange mites cause skin disease in dogs. One (the demodectic mite) resides in the hair follicles, while the other (the sarcoptic mite) lives just under the surface of the skin. Although both mites share some similar characteristics, there are also important differences. It is important not to confuse the two types of mange because they have different causes, treatments, and prognoses.

Demodectic Mange

What causes demodectic mange?

Demodectic mange, sometimes just called “demodex”, is caused by the demodectic mange mite, a parasite which lives in the hair follicles of affected dogs. Under the microscope, this mite appears shaped like an alligator with 8 legs. All dogs (and many humans) have a few of these mites on their skin. As long as the body’s immune system is functioning, these mites cause no harm. 

Demodectic mange most often occurs when a dog has an immature immune system, allowing the mites to grow rapidly. Therefore, this disease occurs primarily in dogs less than 12-18 months of age. In most cases, as a dog matures, the immune system also matures.  Adult dogs which have the disease usually have defective immune systems.

Does this mean that demodectic mange is not contagious?

Yes. Since the mite is found on virtually all dogs, exposure of a normal dog to one with demodectic mange is not dangerous.

Why doesn’t the immune system mature correctly in some dogs?

Development of the immune system is under genetic control. Thus, an affected dog usually comes from a litter containing other affected puppies. Owners of litter mates should be put on the alert to watch for it. Because the disease is often due to a genetic defect, affected dogs should not be bred. Also, parents of the affected dog should not be bred again. Sometimes the disease can occur as a result of treatment of the dog with immunosuppressant drugs including corticosteroids.

What does demodectic mange do to the dog?

Surprisingly, a dog with demodectic mange does not itch severely, even though it loses hair in patches. Areas of bare skin will be seen.  The hair loss usually begins on the face, especially around the eyes. When there are only a few patches of hair loss, it is termed localised demodectic mange. If the disease spreads to many areas of the skin, it becomes generalised demodectic mange. 

How is demodectic mange treated?

The localised form is usually treated with topical medication. The generalised form requires special shampoo and topical insecticides and sometimes medication either by injection or by mouth. Shampooing with special cleansing shampoos helps to flush out the hair follicles prior to the application of special insecticidal shampoos.

For dogs with generalised demodectic mange, secondary skin infections may represent a complicating factor requiring antibiotic therapy.  Dogs with skin infections have very red, inflamed skin and these dogs are usually itchy.

What is the prognosis for my dog?

Treatment of the localised form is generally successful.  Treatment of the generalised form is also usually successful.  However, if the abnormality in the immune system is severe the dog may require regular treatment for the rest of its life.

Following successful treatment, is it likely to recur?

Because the immune system does not mature until 12-18 months of age, a dog with demodectic mange may have relapses until that age.  It is important for retreatment to begin promptly to minimise the possibility of developing uncontrollable problems. Demodectic mange may also occur in very old dogs because function of the immune system often declines with age. Dogs who have immune suppression due to illness or medication are also candidates for demodectic mange.

The special shampoo commonly used for demodectic mange contains the insecticide amitraz. The manufacturer’s instructions must be carefully followed. The product can have side effects both to your dog and yourself if not properly used. If in doubt consult your veterinary surgeon. After the treatment it will be necessary to examine your dog for the presence of live mites or mite eggs. Further treatment will be determined by the results. When applying amitraz be sure to wear rubber gloves to prevent getting it on your hands.

Sometimes treatment will involve the use of products that are not licensed for specific use in the dog. Your veterinary surgeon will discuss these with you and the implications involved. It is sometimes necessary to use these products since the risk surrounding their use is less than the risk of untreated demodectic mange.

Sarcoptic Mange

What causes sarcoptic mange?

Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite that burrows just beneath the surface of the skin. It may also crawl around on the skin surface. The mite feeds on material in and on the skin.

What does it do to the dog?

The presence of the sarcoptic mite causes severe itching. The dog will chew and scratch its skin constantly. This leads to the loss of large amounts of hair, especially on the legs and belly. Eventually, the skin will become thickened and will darken due to pigmentation.

Is it contagious?

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to other dogs; it is also contagious to humans, and is known as scabies. The dog’s bedding should be discarded or if this is not possible, it should be regularly washed in hot water with bleach or one of the specific anti-scabies shampoos.    Although the mites are not able to complete their life cycle on humans, they will cause quite a bit of itching before they finally die. If you have developed an itch and your dog has scabies contact your family doctor to discuss the various treatment options available.

How is sarcoptic mange diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made by a skin scraping that is examined under the microscope. However if only a small number of mites are present on the dog all skin scrapings may be negative. A presumptive diagnosis is then made because the signs are so suspicious and treatment is commenced without the confirmation of a skin scraping. Age is not a significant factor in sarcoptic mange. Although most common in puppies, it affects dogs of all ages.

How is it treated?

There are several insecticides which are effective against this mite. Various dips and shampoos are available. Bathing should occur weekly for at least 4 weeks, at which time your dog should be re-examined to determine if further treatment is needed. Should bathing not prove effective injections with a preparation called ivermectin may be successful but this product is not licensed for use in dogs. Your veterinary surgeon will discuss the implications prior to its use. It is important to remember that all in contact animals are also treated.


Staphyloccocal dermatitis and hypersensitivity 

What is this problem?

Staphylococcus is a name for a group of bacteria commonly found on the skin. Dermatitis is a term that means Staphylococcal infection.

Does Staphylococci always cause dermatitis?

NoStaphylococci normally reside on the skin of animals and humans; however, they are considered  opportunists. As long as the skin is healthy, Staphylococci are dormant. But once the skin is irritated, they can invade the area and multiply rapidly.

What are likely causes of this type of skin irritation?

Scratching is the most common cause. Any disorder that causes itching can create the situation which allows Staphylococcus to become a problem. Common causes of itching include fleas, inhalant allergy, and food allergy. Irritating chemicals, such as flea and tick dips, also can cause itching.

How is the condition diagnosed?

There are two typical Staphylococcal lesions. One type begins as a red area on the skin with a pimple-like pustule in the centre. The other type is a circular, reddish area with a crusty edge and hair loss in the centre. The latter can easily be confused with ringworm.  Finding either of these skin patterns in a dog that is scratching is highly suggestive of Staphylococcal dermatitis.

Confirmation can be made with bacteriological cultures or skin biopsy. However, the lesions are so typical that this is usually not necessary.

How is the condition  treated?

The causal agent is a bacterium and is usually sensitive to several antibiotics. A swab and antibiotic sensitivity test will determine the most suitable antibiotic which usually can be administered by mouth. However, some infections may require 3-6 weeks of treatment before the infection is under control. Antibacterial shampoos and ointments can also be helpful in bringing about rapid control of the infection.

The other essential part of treatment is stopping the itching and scratching which may have been present before the staphylococcal infection occurred. Other tests may be needed to determine the cause. Frequently, more than one condition contributes to the itching.

Is my dog contagious to me or other pets?

No. All dogs, cats, and people have Staphylococci living on the skin as a normal resident.

I finished treatment for Staphylococcal dermatitis two weeks ago, and now the infection is back.  Why is that?

This situation may be caused by an allergy to the Staphylococcal bacteria. This is called Staphylococcus hypersensitivity or Staphylococcus allergy.

The skin lesions that are caused by hypersensitivity are identical to those of a Staphylococcal dermatitis.  The difference is recurrence.  If the dermatitis is treated properly, the underlying cause Staphylococcus is eliminated and itching stops. Thus the bacterial skin disease should be eliminated.  The situation may recur if itching returns.  However, when the dog with Staphylococcal hypersensitivity is treated, the skin lesions will return within a few days or weeks.

Since differentiation of Staphylococcal dermatitis and Staphylococcal  hypersensitivity is based largely on recurrence, it is very important that treatment be continued long enough. This often means a month or more of antibiotics. If not, there will still be a question of which disease is present.

How is Staphylococcal hypersensitivity treated?

Treatment begins the same as for Staphylococcal  dermatitis: oral antibiotics, medicated shampooing, and whatever is necessary to stop the itching.  However, long-term control is best achieved with Staphylococcal bacterin.  Staphylococcal  bacterin is a solution of killed Staphylococcal bacteria that is injected into the dog in very tiny amounts.  This is an attempt to reprogram the dog’s immune system so it does not over-react to its own bacteria.  The use of Staphylococcal bacterin begins as a series of daily injections into the layers of the skin.  After the initial series is completed, the injections are given subcutaneously (just below the skin) on an interval of every 3-4 days to every 2 weeks. These injections frequently will give profound improvement when other treatments have failed.

If such a course has to be given, we will show you how to administer these simple injections yourself if necessary.

How successful is this?

Allergy shots are never successful 100% of the time, whether in dogs or in people. We expect up to 75% of the dogs to respond well.

What happens if Staphylococcal bacterin is not successful?

The dog will have to be treated periodically with oral antibiotics and medicated baths. This is not the most desirable approach because Staphylococcus will often develop resistance to the antibiotics. If this occurs, a change in the specific antibiotic used will be necessary.  This will also involve more bacteriological tests and antibiotic sensitivity testing in order to establish another appropriate course of treatment.


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