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Demodex (canis) is a mite and is the "cause" of mange (demodicosis) in young dogs, a feared skin complaint! How well-placed is that fear? There appears to be more going on with most cases of demodicosis than a mite infection alone. Is it then wise to treat it with poisons that only kill the mites? Must there not be more effective treatments?

You read it well: 'cause' between quotation marks! If we find a dog with skin complaints of demodex mites, common in the most cases, that there is usually more going on than only a mite infection. The presence of several or many demodex mites means, that we can talk of an insufficient immune system of the dog. Science must be the most important guide for the treatments plan for the benefit of demodex patients. The poor defence as a cause of demodicosis is also the reason why it is insufficient to only kill the mites. Additionally, in the cases that it works, is really more the improvement of the defence of the patient, spontaneously or through other treatments, then that the poisonous anti-mite "medicine" is responsible for the success. 


The mite :

The demodex mite is easy to distinguish of other mites. In contrast to other known mites, demodex is a narrow elongated 'fish' with at the first half at both sides 4 short legs (see image below). For all clarity: the demodex mites can't be seen with the bare eye; we can only make them visible under a microscope. 

The infection :

The demodex mite is part of the normal skin flora. Consequently in principle, the mite is present in very small numbers with every healthy dog, without that causes complaints. Demodex will cause only problems, if the mites increase in number in hair follicles and sebaceous glands. That increase of the number demodex mites is allowed in the body only if we talk of a poor defence, of a hereditary predestination or an underlying illness that the resistance of the dog undermines. 


The skin complaint :

The image of demodicosis in its most known form is: baldness around the eyes, on the cheeks, around the mouth, on the neck and at the inside of the forelegs. Sometimes there are few crusts, flakes and/or red spots to see; sometimes we see also festering pimples, through bacteria (Staphylococcus). Only mostly it is one 'clean' bare spot. In a number of cases, we see arbitrarily over the body 1 or few of that bare spots, for instance on the toes. And what quite important is: there is no talk of itch! That is a strong indication for demodicosis. In serious cases with much skin infection there can be some itch. We see then almost a complete balding of skin with crusts, flakes and festering pimples. 

The diagnose :

The diagnosis is made on the base of the skin complaints (no itch!) and the microscopic image. With a sharp spoon, superficial skin material is scraped off and under the microscope examined. The mites are easy to find! Consequently, if there are no demodex mites found in the affected territory the diagnosis already is quickly made: any demodicosis. A single mite is not 100% affirming, but several mites are. If it swarms from the mites, can that be an indication for a serious contagion, or better described: of a serious immunity problem.

In chronic cases can it be, that only a skin biopsy can give a decisive answer, but in most cases is a simple scraped specimen sufficient to put the diagnosis demodicosis. We must always seek after the problem behind it. Next to the clinical examination and the microscopic examination of the scraped specimen in the most cases a supplementary blood work is minimally necessary. We must seek after the complaint behind the demodicosis. 

Prognosis :

With young dogs the immune system is still a little less well developed; this improves as the dog grows older. Therefore, we see demodicosis mostly with young dogs; thus the term "young dogs mange." In less serious cases (1 or a few bare spots) we see in 90% of the cases a spontaneous cure without treatment as the dog gets older and the defence system is stronger. Treatment with the very poisonous anti mite means was/is here not thus necessary! If it no spontaneous improvement acts as the dog get older and the complaints gets only more awful then it is clear, that something else is at hand and thus must we concentrate our attention on that. A new diagnosis and a ditto treatment handle the real cause of the problem. I had a young dog on the office hours that after 36 (!) poisonous treatments still had demodicosis. If there is then not a bell that rings, that something else must happen? The condition of such dog gets not better through such a structural poisoning! In general counts, that small demodicosis (1 or a few skin spots) on young age at an otherwise healthy dog has a good prognosis. An older dog, older than 1-2 year, with serious extensive demodicosis has on the other hand a poor prognosis. Also for the young dog, that the more violent the image, the more severe the prognosis! The problem by determining of the prognosis of demodicosis in those cases, that we often don't have the possibility to find the causes of decreased defence, or to treat it.

Sometimes it can't be treated at all. There are possibly hereditary factors that play a role and there you can often not do much.  With dogs from foreign countries, for instance Greece or Portugal that suffers of demodicosis, we must always be prepared on an underlying Leishmaniasis infection; that is a parasite, that is transferred through a sand fly and that completely undermines the defence system of the host. Naturally, we must then not treat primarily the demodex mite, but especially the underlying Leishmaniasis. To raise the resistance especially in cases of demodicosis we can solve this very well with homeopathy. Together with you, we seek the best fitting means for your dog to take on the disease constitutionally. And it is important to rule out the complaint entirely with an eye to the future. Rarely do you see dogs that in their youth had demodicosis get stubborn allergies later on in life. Homeopathy does at least an attempt to prevent these problems, the poisonous anti mite means not in the least. 

Contagion :

The demodex mite comes thus everywhere in the surroundings, but once again it will only give complaints to a sensitive patient. That implies that a dog with demodicosis is not infectious for its surroundings. They can play without problems with other dogs. In a nest, you see for instance that 1 dog can have demodicosis while the rest of the nest has no problem, despite the daily close contact, that the puppies have with each other. 

Treatment : 

Spontaneous cure :

In principle, a single spot at a young dog will cure in nearly all cases by itself. That can sometimes last a few weeks or a few months. That means that a treatment of these patients with the customary, poisonous means to kill mites is comparable to shooting mosquitoes with a gun. Do not do thus.  Echinacea purpurea In the more mildness cases with young dogs, can it be enough with an oral treatment with the simple herbs

Echinacea purpurea (Mac Samuel Resistance) :

With only an oral treatment with the simple herbs. Accepted, that the dog has good food, that he is wormed in time and no other illness is hiding behind the demodicosis. A feedings supplement as Megaderm® (essential fatty acids, biotin, zinc and selenium) can furnish a contribution at the improvement of the fur condition. 

Homeopathy :

In less mild cases, also with older dogs (> 1 year) we must try the best fitting homeopathic means to find at the individual dog. Naturally, after we have determined first that the dog is otherwise healthy and no other illness hides behind the demodicosis that we ought to treat first. The most important means by demodicosis is Sulphur, Hephar sulphur and Apis mellifica. We must, however, look carefully at which means, or which other means that best fits at your dog. Wrong treatment means no result. You can make for the homeopathic treatment an appointment with our clinic. We can then also determine if there is an underlying illness present and when necessarily prescribe a so safely possible supporting treatment. 

Defencare® :

In the little mild general cases, we treat (in the beginning) well with a mite killing means. The objective is: to weaken the attacks of the mites, but (and that is the most important) raise at the same time the resistance of the 'host' with other means. We choose then in first authority for the means Defencare® (Pyrethrine), to wash 1 to 3 times with an interval of 1 week.  The means has not been registered official for demodex, well for fleas and lice. We have positive experiences with it, and consider the means as safer than Ectodex®. 

Stronghold® :

The second choice is the means Stronghold® (Ivermectine), 1 to 3 times spot–on in the neck with an interval of 3 to 4 weeks. Also here is again the objective: the attacks of the mites weaken, but (and that is the most important) raise at the same time also the resistance of the 'host' with other means.  In the American literature, I found yet the possibility of an oral treatment with Ivermectine, daily during 3 to 8 months. The enormous time to use this medication indicates that we do not often choose this method. The means Ivermectine must not be used with Collies, Shelties, Bobtails, actual not with all shepherds and all crossings of shepherds. Side effects Ivermectine: saliva, vomiting, narrows pupils, confusion and ataxia, more sensitive for sounds, weakness and coma and sometimes dead. 

Ectodex® :

As third choice counts the means Ectodex® (Amitraz), washing 1 to 3 times with an interval of 1 week. Also the former means Tactic® contained the product Amitraz. The treatment with Ectodex® can best beforehand go through a bath with Allerderm Paxcutol®, if we have to do with a serious bacterial skin disorder. Next to the fighting of the bacteria (Staphylococcus), sees the cleaning work of the shampoo for it that the mites can be better reached for the mite killing. The current treatments prescription says: ".....weekly treatment till that the complaints are disappeared and that there during 1 month long no mites are found anymore...." You will understand, that we advise against this treatment, certainly as we see for a moment to the side effects of this product and when we realize us, that we don’t fight the causes with it.

Side effects Ectodex® Drowsiness, apathy, flaw at appetite, about 12 to 36 hours after the treatment. Other side effects are: diarhea, vomiting, itch, many puddles, narrow pupils, slow heartbeat, blood pressure drop, slow respiration, low temperature, ataxia, intestine paralysis, increased sugar mirror, cramps, and death. Not the dose but the sensitivity of the patient determines if you get side effects and the seriousness of them. You can get yourself skin inflammation, headache and respiratory difficulties. 


We advise the product Ectodex® exclusively in serious cases and then only a few times in the beginning. In exceptional cases, for instance at an older dog with serious demodicosis that not reacts to another more causal treatment can it be that we repeat a few times the bath in expectation of a still successful other treatment. We are no supporter of the many repeated treatments that are prescribed by this kind of product. 

Allerderm Paxcutol® :

The treatment with a mite killing means can best beforehand through an ablution with Allerderm Paxcutol® (under others benzyl peroxide) if we talk of a serious bacterial skin disorder. Next to the fighting of the bacteria (Staphylococcus), sees the cleaning work of the shampoo to it that the mites better can be reached by the mite killing product. 

Antibiotica :

If we talk about a serious bacterial skin disorder, is it smart to prescribe the patient 4 to 6 weeks antibiotics. If suitable means we know especially cephalosporin (Cefaral®) and enrofloxacine (Baytril®); last named product may not be applied at young, still growing dogs.