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Demodex Mange in Pugs

You notice one or several bald patches on your Pug and wonder what they are or how she got them. You wait a couple of days for the hair to grow back figuring your Pug just hurt herself somehow. But it doesn’t grow back and you take her to the vet. Or maybe you brought him in to get neutered, or to the vet for some other reason. However you got to the vet, you got upset, worried and cringed when the vet said that word…Mange.

The connotations of Mange give us an instant and horrific reaction to it, but in the case of Demodectic Mange, the most common form of Mange, it’s not usually as bad as it seems. So what is Demodectic Mange? What are the symptoms? Causes? Treatment? You’ll find all you need to know about it right here:

Demodectic Mange: Often called Demodex, is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites called Demodectic Mites. These mites live on your Pug’s body at the base of the fur follicles 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. You won’t be reminded of, or even aware of these mites being on your Pugs body, until you see some symptoms that let you know they’re there, and doing damage.

Symptoms: The symptoms of Demodectic Mange are actually easy to spot. It shows itself in dime sized bald patches on your Pug, usually found near the base of the ear opening, above the eyes, the belly, paws and sometimes elsewhere. These bald patches, in Generalized Demodex leave the skin appearing as a reddish color, which is where Demodex got an alternative name called "Red Mange". Other symptoms can accompany Demodectic Mange, including listlessness, loss of appetite and other illnesses, depending upon the type of Demodectic Mange your Pug is suffering from.

Localized Demodectic Mange: The localized form of Demodex shows itself as one or a few bald spots in the "usual places" mentioned above.

Generalized Demodectic Mange: The generalized form of Demodex shows itself in a greater number of bald spots, as it worsens and spreads, and is often accompanied by other infections of the skin and perhaps elsewhere.

Causes of Demodectic Mange: There are several theories as to the causes of Demodectic Mange, and each is probably valid to one degree or another. We’ll cover each, after discussing the basics of how and why these mites go from harmless residents on your Pugs body to destructive parasites.

Resident Parasites turn Destructive: As mentioned earlier, Demodectic Mites live on your Pug all the time. They are year round inhabitants that do no damage unless or until your Pugs immune system is weakened or weak. When the immune system of your Pug is strong and developed, it fights off the Mites, preventing the small number of them on its body from doing any harm. When the immune system is weak, or weakened, the mites do their damage, pushing out the hair and nipping away at the skin of your dog.

When and Why: Demodectic Mange is the result of a weak or weakened immune system. In terms of the Generalized form, Demodex may be the result of a weak immune system passed along from generation of pug to generation. In the Localized form, Demodex usually shows itself in Pug puppies (remember a Pug puppyhood is quite long and they may not fully develop until they are as much as two years of age) between the ages of 6 and 18 months.

Given the fact that Localized Demodex occurs most often at this age, it is often thought that the reason behind it is the still developing immune system of a Pug puppy. However, it is also quite common for Demodectic Mange to show itself in a Pug that has recently moved from breeder to home, or from one home to another. Because of this, it is also theorized that stress may be a cause of Demodectic Mange as well. While this does make sense, and is logical enough, it’s important to note that this is more the effect of stress on the dogs’ immune system than it is stress itself. Stress can lower a dogs ability to fight off disease and illness, just as it does in people, but it’s the lowering of the immune system itself that leads to the mites doing their damage. So we’ve covered the hows’ and whys’, and you want to know how it’s treated.

Treatment: Demodectic Mange is treated a variety of different ways, the most common of which is a series of dippings. These dippings, simply stated, involve dipping your Pug in insecticide to kill the mites and/or their eggs. Dippings often take place in a series of two or three, 1-3 weeks apart, followed by a skin scraping. The skin scraping is placed under a microscope to determine if the number of mites seen is within the allowable number that can be found on a healthy dog. If it is, the dipping is discontinued and a follow-up scraping is done a couple of weeks later to make sure the mites are under control. If it is not, the dippings continue with another series, followed by the scraping.

If after several rounds (and much of this depends on your vet, and his/her preferences of treatment) the dippings are not working, alternative treatments are taken. This usually involves the use of anti-biotics, topical solutions, and even shampoos designed for the treatment of this problem…Or, your vet may prescribe a combination of treatment.

Prognosis: As long as your Pug does not have a genetic deficiency of its immune system, treatment of Demodectic Mange is usually successful. If there is a genetic deficiency of the immune system, Demodectic Mange can be an on-going lifelong battle that, if kept under control, can be manageable to the point where it does not become life threatening.

Recurrence: If your Pug does not have a genetically deficient immune system, Demodectic Mange may reoccur depending upon the development of your Pugs immune system. If for example your Pug suffers from Demodex at 1 year of age, it is possible that it will reoccur several months later because even at that age, the immune system is still developing. This does not mean it will reoccur, but it can.

Odds and ends: There are several important things to know and consider when dealing with Demodectic Mange.

It’s very important that you receive detailed instructions from your veterinarian when your dog is being treated. Make sure you receive and follow instructions as to whether or not you should bathe your Pug in between dippings. Vets differ on this issue, but as long as you trust and are comfortable with your Veterinarian, follow his her advice.

Your Pug may be upset and drained by it’s first dipping. It is a traumatic experience, and they are being dipped in insecticide, which cannot be pleasant. Comfort your Pug after you take her home, but don’t dry her off with a towel, as it is better for her to dry from the dipping naturally. Some Pugs grow more tolerant of these dippings as they progress, others don’t so be aware of this.

Keep your eye out for other symptoms that there may be something else wrong with your Pug. If he has Demodectic Mange, it means his immune system is weak or weakened and that he could be vulnerable to other illnesses and infections.

Though some people have and do administer dippings, we strongly suggest…no, make that we implore you to let your veterinarian handle the dippings. Veterinarians, and their staff, are trained to do these things…They are trained to handle animals, and the insecticide used for the dippings, you are likely not.

Keep your chin up when your Pug is diagnosed with Demodectic Mange. It’s usually treated successfully!