Mange is the umbrella term for skin diseases caused by parasitic mites. The clinical picture of mange differs greatly depending on the type of mite. The most important parasitic mites in this country are sarcoptic mites – also called grave mites, Demodex mites, ear mites or fur mites. The autumn grass mites occupy a special position because they are actually plant mites. Only during their larval stage do they parasitize on an animal host for just under a week.
The classic clinical picture of the mangy dog is caused by grave mites (Sarcoptes). They are a little smaller than half a millimeter. The sarcoptic mite can be transmitted directly from dog to dog. Female mites can survive for around six days outside the host, for example on tufts of fur or the dog’s blanket. The most important vector of this mite, however, is the fox, which is also extremely comfortable in cities. Dogs become infected when they come into contact with mite-infested fox hair.
The activity of the mites on and in the dog’s skin causes severe itching. The dogs can hardly be dissuaded from scratching. It is typical for sarcoptic mange that the mites settle on the stomach, the underside of the chest, the elbows and the ears. There the skin is reddened and covered with small, red nodules that grow larger as the disease progresses.
To detect the mites, the vet scrapes the dog’s skin in several places until it bleeds. If he discovers mites during the examination, the dog is given a special anti-parasitic agent. In the first few days after the antiparasitic treatment, the itching of the affected dog may become more severe. If necessary, the skin is cared for with special medicated shampoos. In the event of an infection, antibiotics can sometimes be useful.
If the dogs scratch their ears, abrasions can occur. © M. Dörr & M. Frommherz – stock.adobe.com
In contrast to sarcoptic mange, Demodex mites actually do not itch the dog. The Demodex mites are transmitted from the mother to the puppies and usually live inconspicuously in the dogs’ hair follicles. Therefore they are also called hair follicle mites. Only if the dog has a weak immune system do the Demodex mites multiply rapidly and then cause a disease, demodicosis. It begins with hair loss and dandruff in isolated parts of the body. Since the areas neither itch nor pain, they do not bother the dog. In many animals, these areas heal on their own.
In severe cases, however, the demodicosis spreads more and more. It becomes a severe inflammation of the skin that often becomes infected and then causes severe itching and pain in the affected dog. Without proper treatment, demodicosis can lead to the death of the dog. To diagnose this mite disease, the veterinarian must also make a deep “skin scrape”. In addition, he has to look for the cause of the underlying immune deficiency.
A special anti-parasitic agent is used for treatment. In addition, comorbidities, such as infections, and the cause of the immune deficiency must be treated.
Shortly after birth, Demodex mites can be transmitted from the bitch to the puppies. However, only immune-weakened animals get sick. © grafikplusfoto – stock.adobe.com
As their name suggests, the fur mites (Cheyletiella) do not live in the skin, but in the fur of the dog. They can sometimes be seen as wandering white dots on dark fur. The fur mites often only cause increased dandruff. But they can also trigger severe skin inflammation with crust formation and excruciating itching. If fur mites are suspected, the vet examines the dog’s hair and scales under a microscope. Here, too, antiparasitics are used for therapy and the skin is treated according to its condition. Fur mites can also cause itching in humans, but usually do not stay long on the hairless host.
Ear mites (Otodectes) feel comfortable in the dog’s ear canal. They cause a very itchy inflammation there. Affected dogs often shake their heads and scratch their ears. Coffee grounds-like deposits and crumbs can be seen in the ear canal and auricle. The veterinarian can use an otoscope to see the parasites in the dog’s ear canal. In the practice, the veterinarian clears out the affected ear canal. He then checks whether the eardrum is intact. Then the dog is given an anti-parasitic agent against mites. To treat inflammation of the ear canal at home, there are cleaning solutions, ear drops and / or ointments, depending on the case. It is important that cotton swabs are never used when treating or cleaning dogs’ ears because the risk of injury is very high. It is best to have the use of the medication on and in the dog’s ears shown in detail in the veterinary practice.
Ear mite infestation can also be recognized by the coffee grounds-like crumbs and deposits in and around the ear. © Viktoria – stock.adobe.com
Autumn grass mites (Neotrombidula autumnalis) are actually plant mites. They pierce the plants and feed on their sap. They only need animal protein for a few days during their larval period in order to develop into adult mites. The larvae wait for their animal hosts on low plants, especially in early and late summer. When a dog passes by, the rust-red larvae usually migrate to the dog as a small pack and prefer to suckle between the paws. After a few days they fall off on their own. Currently, no drug specifically against the autumn grass mite is approved, but some preparations against ticks and other mites are also effective against the autumn grass mite. If the dog is very itchy, medication from the vet can help.
Some preparations for dogs against ticks and fleas from the vet also protect against mite infestation, but not against every species. It is best to seek individual advice. If the dog is already infected, the area must be vacuumed thoroughly and textiles and accessories washed. Otherwise the dog can get infected again and again with the mites that it has brought into the apartment itself. The cleaning of the environment also serves to protect people and other animals in the household.