Your Pet & Mites: The Basics, Diagnosis, Treatment & Control
At some point in their lives, many pets experience discomfort caused by mites on their skin or in their ears. These parasites can be extremely irritating to pets and can cause serious skin problems or even carry disease. In this article, we’re going to examine the treatment, control, and prevention of three types of mites: Ear Mites, Sarcoptic Mange Mites, and Demodectic Mange Mites.
Ear mites are common in young cats and dogs, and generally confine themselves to the ears and surrounding area. Mites are tiny and individual mites may be seen only with the aid of a microscope. Your pet can pick up ear mites by close contact with an infested pet or its bedding.
Ear Mite Diagnosis, Risks and Consequences
Ear mites can cause intense irritation of the ear canal. Signs of ear mite infestation include excessive head shaking and scratching of the ears. Your pet may scratch to the point that he/she creates bleeding sores around his/her ears. Excessive scratching can also cause breakage of blood vessels in the earflap, causing the formation of a pocket of blood (an aural hematoma) that may require surgery. A brown or black ear discharge is common with ear mite infections, and secondary infections with bacteria or yeast can occur. A swab of the discharge is usually examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of ear mites
Ear Mite Treatment and Control
Treatment of ear mites involves thorough ear cleaning and medication. Your veterinarian can recommend an effective treatment plan.
Sarcoptic Mange Mites
Microscopic sarcoptic mange mites cause sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies. Sarcoptic mange can affect dogs of all ages and sizes, during any time of the year. Sarcoptic mange mites are highly contagious to other dogs and may be passed by close contact with infested animals, bedding, or grooming tools.
Sarcoptic Mange Diagnosis, Risks and Consequences
Sarcoptic mange mites burrow through the top layer of the dog’s skin and cause intense itching. Clinical signs include generalized hair loss, a skin rash, and crusting. Skin infections may develop secondary to the intense irritation. People who come in close contact with an affected dog may develop a skin rash and should see their physician. Sarcoptic mange is usually confirmed by taking a skin scraping and examining it under a microscope
Sarcoptic Mange Mites Treatment and Control
Dogs with sarcoptic mange require medication to kill the mites and additional treatment to soothe the skin and resolve related infections. Cleaning and treatment of the dog’s environment is also necessary.
Demodectic Mange Mites
Demodectic mange caused by demodectic mange mites is mainly a problem in dogs. Demodectic mange mites are microscopic and not highly contagious. In general, demodex mites are not spread to other animals or across species. A mother dog, however, may pass the mites to her puppies.
Demodectic Mange Diagnosis, Risks and Consequences
Localized demodectic mange tends to appear in young dogs (usually less than 6 months old) as patches of scaly skin and redness around the eyes and mouth and, perhaps, the legs and trunk. Itching is not common with this type of mite infestation unless a secondary infection has occurred. Unlike other types of mange, demodectic mange may signal an underlying medical condition, and your pet’s overall health should be carefully evaluated. Less commonly, young and old dogs experience a more severe form of demodectic mange (generalized demodecosis) and can exhibit widespread patches of redness, hair loss, and scaly, thickened skin. Dogs with demodecosis can develop secondary bacterial infections which require additional treatment.
Cats are rarely infected with demodex mites, and the cat demodex mite is not the same as the dog demodex mite. Affected cats develop hair loss, crusts and scaly skin around the face, neck and eyelids, and may excessively groom the areas. They may also be more itchy than dogs affected by demodex.
Demodectic mange is usually confirmed by taking a skin scraping and examining it under a microscope.
Demodectic Mange Treatment and Control
Your veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you. Treatment of dogs with localized demodectic mange generally results in favorable outcomes. Generalized demodecosis is more difficult to treat, and aggressive, extended treatment may be necessary.
For more information on the diagnosis, treatment, or control of mites for your pet, please contact your veterinarian.
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