Demodectic mange is a condition seen in both dogs and cats caused by different species of Demodex mites. It is interesting to note that Demodex mites are present on the skin of all normal animals, including people, and usually exist in small numbers within the hair follicles. Demodectic mange is therefore considered non-contagious since all animals already have these mites.
Apparently, animals are not born with the mites but acquire them from their mothers in the first few days of life, during the nursing process. As of today, their are 65 known species of Demodex mites.
If Demodex mites are present on all normal animals, why do some animals develop mange and most do not? Animals with mange may have an inherited or acquired immune defect that fails to keep the mite numbers in check. The result is a demodectic mite population explosion which not only crowds the hairs within hair follicles and results in bacterial infections, but the mites produce other substances that then further compromise the immune system. It is important to remember that these mites are normal residents on the skin (albeit in small numbers) and reflect an underlying important defect of the immune system. The proliferation of mites is therefore an effect, rather than a cause, of the condition. In young animals, which are most commonly affected with mange, the condition likely reflects an inherited incompetence of the immune system.
Not all young animals afflicted with mange are destined to be immunologically handicapped for life. A large percentage tend to self-cure when they reach immunologic maturity which may range from 8 months to 3 years of age, depending on the breed. It is estimated that 90% of pups affected will improve naturally if given supportive care. The 10% which are considered to have generalized mange should be considered to be immunologically crippled but can be made symptomatically better by using treatments to kill the mite population, and thereby lessening the incidence of bacterial infections.This is where the cost to keep an infected dog may be entirely too much if you take the dog to a Veterinarian. A Vet will use a multitude of expensive treatments which usually include cleansing shampoos, antibiotic therapy, topical insecticides (Mitaban (Rx) or its active ingredient Amitraz), and immune stimulants. The cost for the Veterinarian treatments along with the cost of the office visits will add up to hundreds of dollars per year. Once again, I want to remind everyone that I am not a Veterinarian, but rather a long time Beagle kennel owner. I'll tell you what I have used and done in the past, you can use your own judgment whether you want to follow in my footsteps. This article is presented only as a documentation of how I have treated Demodectic Mange in some Beagles that I have owned at a fraction of the cost that a Veterinarian will charge for the expensive medications, therapies, insecticides, and shampoos.
Patchy hair loss in a dog can be caused by several things, but the three most common causes are ringworms, sarcoptic mange, and demodectic mange. The diagnosis of demodex mange mites is usually not difficult if the skin is firmly squeezed (to express the mites from the follicles), then scraped with a scalpel blade, and the collected material examined with a microscope. The adult mites are often described as resembling cigars or alligators and the eggs are more tear drop-shaped. If scrapings are not done, the mites are easily seen on biopsy specimens within the hair follicle. If you decide to use a treatment (such as the one I will describe) to kill the mites specifically, you should do so with the assumption that you are dealing with an immunologically handicapped animal. This warrants spaying or neutering of the pet and making sure it does not contribute to future generations of immunologically-disabled pets. If it is determined that your pet has ringworms, please check out my article on Canine Ringworms and Inexpensive Treatment. Also, the medication given for heartworm prevention has a second benefit in keeping your Beagle free of Demodex mites.
One method that works extremely well is a cattle dip called Prolate which is used to rid a dog of sarcoptic mange mites. You can read the article on using Prolate by clicking on the following link (Sarcoptic Mange and Inexpensive Treatment). Simply dip your Beagle three (03) times per week for about two (02) to three (03) weeks. You should also use a good dandruff shampoo between dips if loose scaly skin is a problem. Cortisone cream is great for severe itching, and any of many topical antibiotic ointments are great for preventing or treating secondary bacterial infections. NOTE: This treatment is a topical solution that is sprayed/dipped onto the skin/hair and attacks the mites from the outside in.
Another treatment that works very well and is also fairly inexpensive is the use of Ivomec for cattle. This is the same medication talked about in the article called Canine Heartworms and Inexpensive Prevention. If you are going to buy the Ivomec for the heartworm prevention, then you might as well use it for getting rid of demodex mange mites as well as ear mites. I administer a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection at the back of the neck, consisting of 1/10 cc of Ivomec for cattle per 10 lbs of Beagle body weight. I give one shot every seven days for 3 consecutive doses. Explained differently, that is one shot, wait 7 days, give a second shot, wait 7 more days, and then give a third shot. This is a very effective treatment for both mange mites and ear mites. If you are already buying the large bottles of Ivomec for cattle to use as a heartworm prevention, then you might as well also use it for this purpose when needed. This is a very clean treatment method, and for maximum effectiveness can be used in conjunction with the first or second treatment method listed above. NOTE: This treatment is a liquid medication that is given orally and attacks the mites from the inside out.
No matter which of these inexpensive treatments you may decide to use, the main thing is to do the treatment and follow ups correctly and in a timely manner. If done correctly and in a timely manner, you will definitely see the mange spots healing up with hair growing back into the hair loss areas. At this point you can discontinue the treatments and only start them again if you see another episode of mange developing. Both of these treatments are only designed to kill the mites and thus stop the hair loss and bacterial skin infections. The dog will look healthy and feel much better with no hair loss, skin infections, or itching. The cause of the overpopulation of Demodex mites (mange) is a bad immune system which can be passed genetically to any offspring. REMEMBER, this warrants spaying or neutering of the pet and making sure it does not contribute to future generations of immunologically-disabled pets.