Monday, April 8, 2013

Damn Those Mites!

Rookie has demodex mites AGAIN. The poor dude has pustules everywhere and is one giant, itchy mess. Saturday I took him into the vet and we did a hair pluck to see if we could see mites again, because his condition suggested he was suffering from demodex. Normally, we would do a skin scrape to verify the presence of mites, but he is so overloaded with them that just a hair pluck showed several adult mites under the microscope and we didn't want to further irritate his skin.

Demodex under the microscope. <downloaded from>

Demodex mites live deep in hair follicles and oil glands of the dog's skin. It can be localized - small patches affected, or generalized - large areas of the dog's face, feet, and body are affected. Rookie's infestation is of the worst - generalized. In addition, demodex can manifest as lesions of two types - squamous (which causes dry alopecia and thickening of the skin) and pustular (which is the more severe form, causing secondary infection - usually by Stpahylococcus - resulting in the red, numerous pustules and wrinkling of the skin. And of course again Rookie's is the worst kind - pustular. The boy can't catch a break.

His poor feet :(

In most cases of Demodex, the dog is able to stop the reproduction and growth of the mites and eventually repair the damage they do themselves, without treatment. And once eliminated, most dogs do not have another infestation because their immune system is primed to eliminate any new mites. However, there are dogs that, because of genetics, do not produce the specific immune factors that target the mites. And guess what, we think that is Rookie's problem. Triple damn for him. That specific lack of adequate immune defense that predisposes and infested dog to a severe, unresponsive case of demodex. And certain breeds, such as the Dalmatian, American Bulldog, and the American Pit Bull Terrier, appear to be more susceptible. Wham Bam, Thank You Mam. The deck is certainly not stacked in Rookie's favor :(.

Pustules on his face. He itches these and just shreds his face :(.

This winter we thought we had finally beat the mites - he had several negative skin scrapes over several months to confirm resolution. But nope, here comes Spring and allergy season and damn it we are back to fighting the mites. All dogs have small numbers of demodex mites residing in the skin and that is normal. It is when immune-related (or nutritional or environmental) stresses impact the dog that visible skin lesions from mite infestations become noticeable. So this is something we are probably facing every allergy season :(. Right now I am investigating some holistic care to hopefully help with his immune system. Check back for updates on Mr. Rookie.

 Happiness is having a scratch for every itch!


  1. My pit bull mix Bella has this exact same problem. I feel wretched that she suffers like this every Spring! she is only 2.5. I am very curious to see if you have a found a holistic solution.

    1. What worked for us was Ivermectin. I tried a bunch of different holistic things but doing a daily dose of Ivermectin was what kept them under control for him. So far this year we have not had an outbreak *knocking on wood*, although it is still early in the season.

    2. I read where ivermectin will kill a dog or cat. but that was the horses brand also still might want to reconder this for your pets.

    3. Hi Debbie, we did try ivermectin and while it contained the problem it never resolved it.