What does it look like?Demodex mites live in hair follicles. As the mites do their evil, mean, and nasty thing in the follicles, eventually mites, debris, and dirt clog the pore, and pustules (staph infection) will develop. The mites secrete a poison that causes the intense itching. They'll tear themselves open scratching - spreading the inflammation and infection.
It often begins in the eye/face area or top of the head, and the paws or joints can be major targets (areas that bear weight or don't get air).
Where scarcoptic mange scenes will blister, demodex will show the pustules (they look just like big pimples).. Hair loss will occur (the mites actually kill the hair follicle and push it out) - but in smaller areas rather than the big bald patches you see with scarcoptic mange.
No part of the body is exempt - certain places seem to be weak spots but that often differs dog to dog.
Demodex has a characteristic, unpleasant sickly-sweet odor.
Very often, whoever diagnoses this just says 'mange' and adds words like "dip" or "hopefully he'll outgrow it". They don't emphasize that demodex is an immune problem, nor do they mention how you can minimize it or help the animal combat it!
Because demodex flourish everywhere, it's not just a matter of getting "rid" of them. Folks walk away not really knowing that just one dipping or treatment won't necessarily "cure" it. The animal WILL repeatedly be attacked by them its whole life. The trick is to eradicate the present outbreak, but at the same time get the immune system beefed up enough so that the animal CAN withstand the next attack. Hopefully given time, efforts to boost the immune system thru supplements, vitamins and stress reduction, your dog will "outgrow it" - meaning the instant case is defeated and hr then has a chance to build his immunity normally. Please see the sections on "boosting the immune system" and "dipping" and "general treatment."
Why are young dogs or puppies particularly bothered by demodex?
Because it's an immune problem the animal is at greatest risk when the immune system is weakest. In puppies the immune system isn't fully developed. Sometimes "Mom" just wasn't very healthy! Or in the case of puppy mill puppies the little folks just didn't get ENOUGH of Mom's milk and probably her immune system was mega-depressed anyway!!!
My dog has demodex but it's not a puppy, is that significant?It's also possible to see an older animal develop demodex. Be really careful if this is your situation. Often if demodex is seen for the first time in an older animal, there is an underlying reason that the immune system has become so depressed. So, don't just accept this as a diagnosis without pushing to find out if this indicates ANOTHER problem!
Many, many stressors rolled together could conceivably compromise the immune system ENOUGH to start this - for example, you get divorced, take your dog and move to a whole different environment and there's a ton of emotional stress in the air and/or sometimes even the death of a life-long animal pal or significant human that is 'missing' from the family unit.