Demodex canis is a mite that is present in small numbers in the skin of most healthy dogs. Nursing puppies acquire the mite from their mothers during the first few days of life, and in most dogs there will never be any associated problems.
In some dogs however, the normal balance is disrupted due to an immune defect. The mites multiply by the thousands in the hair follicles causing inflammation, in a condition called demodicosis. Demodicosis may be localized – that is, confined to 1 or more small discrete scaly reddened areas of hair loss, most commonly on the face or front legs. This is usually seen in pups of 3 to 6 months of age, and most cases resolve spontaneously. Alternately, generalized demodicosis may develop, at anywhere from 3 to 12 months of age.
It is important to note that demodicosis is not infectious, to other pets or to people. The mite is present in small numbers in the skin of healthy dogs, but the condition of demodicosis only develops in some animals, who are believed to have a defect in their immune system.
Demodicosis may be localized – a mild disorder confined to 1 or more small scaly reddened areas of hair loss, most commonly on the face or front legs. This is usually seen in pups of 3 to 6 months of age, and most cases resolve spontaneously.
Generalized demodicosis on the other hand can be one of the most severe skin diseases in dogs. It starts out with local lesions that instead of disappearing, get worse and spread, generally on the head, legs and body. Secondary infections of the hair follicles occur, and large scaly crusted patches form which may eventually cover most of the dog. The deep skin infections can be complicated by resistant bacteria.
Some dogs only develop demodicosis on the feet (demodectic pododermatitis). These lesions commonly become infected, are painful, and can be quite difficult to treat successfully.