How do I know if my dog has mites?

Mites on dogs are small wingless eight-legged insects that occur very commonly throughout the animal and plant kingdoms. Dogs suffer very severely from at least three types of mange.

Mites on dogs

The Demodex canis type leads to a gradual loss of hair over the body and thickening of the skin while the Sarcoptes scabiei type is more localized but more irritant and severe in its effects. Thirdly, there is a form that is restricted to the ears.

Itch mite

More likely to be the source of chronic itching is the infection known as scabies. This is caused by a mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei.

The pregnant female mite burrows up into the outer layers of the skin, forming tunnels into which she deposits her eggs. An allergic reaction to the mite and its eggs and droppings eventually develops and this produces the intense itching.

It may take 4 to 6 weeks after the initial infestation for the allergic reaction to develop. The often widespread, itchy rash is usually worse at night or when the body is warm (e.g. after exercise or a hot shower).

Usually, the disease is noticeable first on the dog’s muzzle and ears. Later the legs and the trunk may be affected. Small pustular skin eruptions emerge and the hair covering takes on a mottled appearance.

The dog usually is intensely itchy and may rub large areas of skin raw. Puppies often develop a very dry skin with large scales and loss of hair in tufts.

The Sarcoptes scabiei mites burrow into the outer layer of the skin to lay their eggs. Fortunately, because it does not burrow very deeply, it is easily treated.

Insecticidal washes or medicated shampoos are usually prescribed as these are safe. Long-coated dogs should be clipped before treatment. Washes are repeated weekly until all signs of irritation have disappeared and the hair grows again.

Demodex canis

The second form of canine mange is caused by the Demodex canis mite which burrows into the deep layers of the skin.

Demodex canis mite is most commonly found in short-haired dogs less than a year old. The first signs are usually small hairless areas on the face and the outside of the legs.

The dog does not seem to be greatly irritated unless a secondary skin infection occurs. Staphylococcal infection results in pustules and small abscess formation which causes intense itching and matting of the hair with a thick scab.

Fortunately, demodectic mange is far less common than sarcoptic mange as it is far more difficult to treat. The parasite is less accessible to insecticides and special formulations have to be used to treat severe cases.

The uncomplicated disease in puppies is usually self-limiting and demodectic mange is not infectious to humans. Soaps and creams containing sulfur have been used as the standard home treatment for mites.

Ear mite

Ear mites are tiny insects which can proliferate within the ear canal of a dog or cat and cause a chronic irritation. Young dogs are most frequently affected and the animal reacts by rigorously shaking the head or scratching its ear from time to time. Examination of the external ear canal reveals a thick, reddish waxy exudate which completely blocks the ear canal.

The ear mite does not burrow into the skin lining the ear but its presence seems to provoke an allergic reaction and make the tissues more prone to a bacterial ear infection. The mites are easily killed with normal insecticides once the waxy exudate has been removed to enable the medication to come in contact with the parasite.

Dogs prone to ear infections should have the hair removed from the ear canal regularly. Care should be taken, if the dog swims frequently during the summer, to apply some ear drops to the ears after swimming. In some dogs, the regular administration of drops that acidify the surface tissues of the ear canal has brought about a dramatic reduction in the incidence of ear infections.

How to get rid of mites on dog naturally

Good food rich in vitamins A and B will assist in its prevention. To treat an existing problem clip the fur away from the affected area and then bath with warm soapy water to which has been added a few drops of olive oil.

Apply the following lotion: mix thoroughly together 5 drops each of lavender and chamomile oil and 10 ml of evening primrose oil with 30 ml of olive oil. Store in an airtight, amber-colored glass bottle, and keep away from direct sunlight and heat.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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