Itchiness, dandruff, and hair loss are common problems that plague dogs, yet there isn’t a single cause for these unpleasant symptoms. For example, allergies can cause skin and coat issues, but mites can also contribute to these less than desirable conditions.
When it comes to dog mites, there are different types — and unfortunately, mite infestations spread easily between pets and people. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to both prevent and treat this pesky problem.
In this guide, we’ll explore the four different types of dog mites, symptoms to look out for, and what you can do to ensure your beloved pet stays mite-free.
What Are Dog Mites?
Although it’s easy to mistake a mite for an insect, they aren’t classified as insects. Instead, mites are a type of arthropod (joint-legged invertebrates) that belong to Arachnida, which is the same class as spiders.
There are four types of mites that infest dogs:
- Demodex canis mites
- Sarcoptes scabiei mites
- Otodectes cynotis mites
- Cheyletiella yasguri mites
Depending on which species of mites is bothering your dog, you’ll notice different symptoms.
Demodex Canis Mites
Demodex canis mites cause an infestation called demodicosis. This type of mite infestation goes by many names: demodex mange, demodectic mange, or red mange. Demodex mites are parasitic and attach themselves to hair follicles on your dog’s coat, causing mange.
The dogs most often affected by demodex mange include:
- Young dogs (these mites are easily passed from the mother dog to puppies during nursing)
- Neglected dogs
- Dogs with lowered immune systems
- Young and older dogs with poor diets
Because mange mites affect the hair follicle, an infestation often leads to thickened skin, hair loss, and secondary infections (yeast or bacteria). If a vet diagnoses a dog with demodex mange, there are several medication options including afoxolaner, fluralaner, lotilaner, and sarolaner.
A popular treatment is a lime-sulfur dip, which is a mixture of lime and sulfur. Regardless of which medication your vet suggests, it’s important to continue the treatment until skin scraping reveals that all of the mites are gone.
Sarcoptes Scabiei Mites
While the Demodex canis mites attach to hair follicles, the Sarcoptes scabiei mites burrow into your dog’s skin. While the thought of this may give you the creepy crawlies, it’s even worse for your dog, leaving them with endless itchy sensations. You might notice that your dog is scratching more often, especially around the groin or armpits. Red skin and hair loss are two other common symptoms of mange.
These mites cause Sarcoptic mange — sometimes called canine scabies or just scabies — and unfortunately, this infection is easily passed to humans. In fact, scabies affects 300 million people each year.
If your doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) detects sarcoptic mange mites, he or she may recommend heartworm medicine. According to VCA Hospitals, ivermectin is the main ingredient in heartworm medication, and it can eliminate several types of mites. Other prescription medications include imidacloprid or moxidectin.
Otodectes Cynotis Mites
Otodectes cynotis are surface mites that target your dog’s ears and cause intense itchiness. Ear mites are most often found on puppies as well as dogs who interact with outdoor cats. You might suspect ear mites if:
- Your dog is constantly scratching at her ears
- Your dog shakes his head so intensely that he breaks blood vessels in his ears
- You see dark “dirt” on the inside flaps of his ears
Of course, shaking the head and pawing at ears can also be signs of an ear infection. Regardless, your vet can determine the cause of your dog’s ear discomfort and get him started on the right treatment. For ear mites, most vets recommend prescription ear drops.
Cheyletiella Yasguri Mites
Cheyletiella yasguri mites cause cheyletiellosis, a mite infestation that is more often called walking dandruff. This infestation earned this strange name because, at first glance, it looks like your dog just has dandruff. However, if your vet examined the “skin flakes” under a microscope, he’d see mites, not skin cells.
This infestation is treated with selamectin every two weeks for a total of three treatments. It’s essential to follow the three treatment protocols because that allows for the medication to target each life cycle of the mites. Pyrethrin shampoos are also useful for this type of mite infestation.
Symptoms of Dog Mites
Because there are different types of dog mites, symptoms vary. The most common symptoms include:
- Intense itching
- Constant scratching
- Raw, red skin
- Crusty patches of skin
- Secondary infections, either bacterial or fungal infections
- Hair loss
- Dark “dirt” (caused by ear mites)
Preventing Mite Infestations
When it comes to dog mites, prevention is the best strategy. Along with adhering to your vet’s suggested flea and tick prevention medications, keep these tips in mind:
- Groom your pet regularly (and report any skin changes to your vet)
- Use pet-friendly shampoos
- Offer grain-free, dairy-free organic dog food that to promote your dog’s overall health while strengthening his immune system
- Use an ear cleaning solution to wash your dog’s ears
- Support healthy skin and coat by including skin-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your pup’s diet
- Launder your pet’s bedding regularly to prevent infestation (or reinfestation)
- Inspect your pet’s skin regularly to check for signs of mites, fleas, or ticks
- Consider bathing your pet immediately after any boarding sessions at the kennel
Supplements for Dog Mites
Along with consulting your vet and administering any prescribed medications, you may want to consider adding an immune system supplement to support your dog’s overall health. While a supplement alone won’t prevent mites, supplements can boost your dog’s immunity. Research shows that a weak immune system can create the perfect breeding ground for demodex mange. As such, a healthy immune system is essential for reducing the risk of developing mange.
PetHonesty’s NutraProbiotic Super Food Topper offers 5 billion CFU probiotics to promote a healthy gut, immune system, and skin and coat for your furry friend. A high-quality probiotic for dogs should include:
- Multiple strains of probiotics
- Superfoods such as blueberry and pumpkin for added nutrients
- Digestive enzymes
Avoid probiotics that are made specifically for humans. In addition, take a pass on any that contain:
- Synthetic flavors, preservatives, or dyes
- Fillers such as wheat or corn
- Artificial preservatives
Even if your pet has never experienced a mite infestation, a high-quality probiotic is a tasty way to support your dog’s overall health and wellness.
Keeping the Mites Away
If Fido experiences a mite infestation — regardless of which type — it’s vital to know that your pup can get swift relief by visiting the vet and following his or her instructions. But you don’t have to wait for the signs of mites before you take action.
From regularly bathing your dog to feeding her a diet that includes both probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids, you can take steps to keep your dog’s skin as healthy as possible and reduce the risk of future problems.
We know that keeping your pup healthy and happy is a pet owner’s number one priority. Head over to the PetHonesty blog for more health and wellness tips.