The Mitey Matter of Mange
Written by Steve Dale   

Dog before treatment for Demodectic mangeMange never went away, but today at least one type of mange actually seems to be on the rise. Ironically, that may be due to improved veterinary medicine, which results in dogs living longer than ever before.

Demodectic or Demodex mange is caused by mites who normally reside in hair follicles, but are kept in check by stalwart canine immune systems. That’s until the immune system lets its guard down, which can happen in older dogs, particularly if they have cancer or another serious illness, or if they’re being treated with chemotherapy or steroids which may compromise the immune system. There’s no data to prove that there’s more mange going on, but indeed there are more senior dogs than ever, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. In older dogs, Demodectic mange may be a chronic condition.

Veterinary dermatologist Dr. Karen Campbell, head of specialty medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana adds that some breeds also seem to predisposed to Demodectic mange, including the Rottweiler, English Bulldog, Doberman, and the Golden and Labrador Retriever.

In addition, Demodectic mange occurs in puppies, often transferred from their mothers. Puppies, in general, are susceptible to mite overgrowth because their immune systems may not be fully developed or they inherit a genetic defect in their immune response allowing mite overgrowth unchecked.

Another kind of mange is Sarcoptic mange, caused by mites that reside on the surface of the skin, or just beneath the surface. Sarcoptic mange is contagious (Demodectic mange is not). Sarcoptic mange is often a problem with dogs in shelters.

Depending on the type of mange – the mite proliferation may cause profuse hair loss as well as itchiness, and intense scratching may lead to secondary infections. Dogs with mange may not feel well, and might even become very ill.

Dog with Demodectic mangeThere are various treatments available today – all work a whole lot better than in the era of the expression ‘that mangy dog.’ Campbell says that in the ‘bad old days’ dogs were often treated for mange by dousing them with gasoline or kerosene. That treatment didn’t work.

Today, veterinarians have a far more sophisticated array of weaponry available to deal with mange. However, not all medications work for all dogs under all circumstances, according to Tinton Falls, NJ veterinary dermatologist Dr. Ian Spiegel.    

The newest weapon is ProMeris, a spot-on product (applied between a pet’s shoulder blades) which was recently approved for usage against Demodectic mange by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

In April, at the North American Veterinary Dermatology Forum in Savannah, GA, veterinary dermatologist Dr. Wayne Rosenkrantz of Orange County, CA presented the results of his research in an abstract which supports the general effectiveness of ProMeris.

Here is the little bugger that causes mangeCarolyn Giannopoulos, director of the Chicago area Bully Breed Rescue says that she frequently sees Demodectic mange among the dogs her group rescues.  Veterinarians often tell her to do nothing. The mange is caused by the intense stress of living in appalling conditions with poor nutrition. The immune systems suffer stress overload and Demodectic mange takes hold. In time, with a loving family and improved nutrition, these dogs often come around own as their immune responses normalize. However, some dogs are so bad off they absolutely require medication.

Giannopoulos says ProMeris is now being used on her rescues with a need, particularly for adult onset Demodectic mange. “One dog ‘s hair loss was so bad we didn’t know what color he was,” she says. Using ProMeris – but more often than the label directs – eventually the approximately 2½-year old dog was stabilized. Today the rescued dog is happy and healthy and living in a forever home. With a concern that mange could easily resurface in this dog, Giannopouls says ProMeris is still being used to manage the problem, given on a monthly basis. What’s more, ProMeris also kills fleas and ticks. In fact, ProMeris was first released to deal with fleas and ticks in 2007.

“It’s terrific to have ProMeris available to augment what we already have; certainly it is a reasonable treatment,” says Spiegel. However, Spiegel and also Campbell point out potential risk of serious adverse drug reactions using ProMeris. While that’s a concern valid for many drugs, because ProMeris is newer less is known. Also, ProMeris has a distinctive eucalyptus scent. While dogs don’t seem to mind it, some people do.

Following treatment for Demodectic mange“There are pro’s and con’s of many products, including the reality of costs,” adds Spiegel. “Much will depend on your dog’s particular breed (herding breeds may be over sensitive to some mange medications) as well as your dog’s age and general health. Having one more choice is very helpful.”

Rosenkrantz says there are many questions which still need answering, so he’s hoping for additional research. Experts aren’t yet exactly clear on how often to dose ProMeris specifically for Demodectic mange. And since the product is fairly new, there are no long-term studies to indicate ultimate cures. Still, Rosenkrantz says the availability of ProMeris makes him “happy.” 

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services