Animal Dermatology Clinic of BC

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Certified Specialist in Skin, Ears, Hair, Nails and Allergies

Mites (Demodex & Scabies)

Demodex Demodex is transmitted from mother dog to newborn puppies during the first 2-3 days of nursing, and possibly between adult dogs that are close cohabitants (rare), it is not contagious to cats or humans.

Localized Demodex

Skin lesions occur when there is a localized overpopulation of demodex on the skin, normal amounts of demodex are natural. Demodectic overgrowth is often associated with a predisposing factor such as endoparasitism (worms), poor nutrition, immunosuppressive drug therapy (e.g, prednisone or other steroid drugs), or transient stress (e.g, estrus (dog in heat), pregnancy, surgery, boarding etc) Localized Demodex may appear as one to five patchy areas of alopecia (hair loss) with variable erythema (redness of the skin), hyperpigmentation (black skin), and dry skin. Lesions are not usually pruritic (itchy) unless they are secondarily infected.

  • Diagnosis- Is made by performing deep skin scrapes to look under a microscope or sometimes by skin biopsies.
  • Treatment- Prognosis is good, most cases resolve within 4-8 weeks. Treatments may include a topical medication or dips. Sometimes no treatment is required and will resolve on it’s own, however a few may progress to generalized demodicosis if not treated. Any predisposing factors and secondary infections should be identified and treated as well.

Generalized Demodex

Adult-Onset Demodex

Occurs in dogs older than 18 months of age, with highest incidence in middle-aged to older dogs that are immunocompromised because of underlying conditions such as hyperadrenocorticism (Cushings), hypothyroidism, steroid use, diabetes, or cancer. To date, highest incidence noted in terrier breeds and their crosses, especially West Highland White Terriers. Symptoms can appear as five or more focal lesions, or two or more body regions. Usually patchy, regional, multifocal, or diffuse hair loss is observed with variable redness, scaling, pimple like spots, or itching. Affected skin may become infected. Lesions can be anywhere on the body, including the paws.

  • Diagnosis- Is made by performing deep skin scrapes to look under a microscope or sometimes by skin biopsies.
  • Treatment/Prognosis- Underlying conditions should be identified and corrected. Intact dogs, especially females should be fixed. Estrus or pregnancy may trigger relapse. Skin infections should be treated appropriately with long term (minimum 3-4 weeks ) with antibiotics and continue at least 1 week beyond clinical resolution. Topical medications, oral medications or injectables may be prescribed. Prognosis is good to fair. Relapses may occur, requiring periodic or lifelong treatment in some dogs. Steroid use should be avoided in dogs diagnosed with demodex.

Juvenile Demodex

Occurs in young dogs, usually between 3-18 months of age with highest incidence in medium-sized and large purebred dogs.

  • Treatments- For all types of Demodex should be continued for at least 1 month beyond the time when follow-up skin scrapings become negative for mites.
  • Because of it’s hereditary predisposition, neither female nor male dogs with juvenile-onset generalized demodicosis should be bred.


ScabiesScabies is a superficial burrowing skin mite, Mites secrete allergenic substances that cause an intensely itchy allergy reaction in sensitized dogs. Affected dogs often have a previous history of being in an animal shelter, having contact with stray dogs, or visiting a grooming or boarding facility. In multiple dog households, more than one dog is usually affected. Scabies is a nonseasonal intense pruritus that responds poorly to corticosteroids. Lesions include papules, alopecia (hairloss), erythema (redness), crusts, and excoriations (chafed skin). Initially, less-hairy skin is involved, such as the hocks, elbows, ear flaps and chest/abdomen. With chronicity, lesions may spread over the body.

  • Diagnosis- Is achieved by a positive response to treatment, Pinnal-pedal reflex (rubbing the ear margin to elicit a scratch reflex) or by superficial skin scrapings, however false negative results are common because mites are extremely difficult to find.

    Affected and all in-contact dogs should be treated with a scabicide. Topical treatments are repeated for 7 days for at least 5 weeks, it is noted that systemic treatments are generally more effective than topical products. Treatment often includes oral medication weekly or weekly injections depending on the case. Treatment for any concurrent infection must be treated as well to determine the response to scabies treatment. In kennel situations, bedding should be disposed of and the environment thoroughly cleaned and treated with parasiticidal sprays.
  • Prognosis- Is good, keep in mind scabies is a highly contagious parasite of dogs that can also transiently infect humans and rarely cats.