Mites are small parasites that infest dogs' skin. Common symptoms of mite infestation include hair loss, itching and scaly skin. Treatment depends on the type of mite infecting your dog.
Common mite diseases include cheyletiellosis, caused by the Cheyletiella mite; sarcoptic mange, caused by the Sarcoptes scabei mite; and demodectic mange, caused by the Demodex canis mite. Infestation may be isolated to a dog's ears, or it may start there. It will cause head shaking, ear scratching, the presence of black or brown wax in the ear, and scabbing on the ear flaps. The most common ear mite in dogs is Otodectes cynotis.
Consult your veterinarian to diagnose the mite species and determine the best course of treatment. Cheyletiellosis, sarcoptic mange and ear mites are highly contagious. Treat all pets in the household.
Topical Treatments and Rinses
Your vet may prescribe an insecticide rinse or shampoo based on the type of mite infection. For example, if your dog has cheyletiellosis, you may be asked to use an insecticide or lime-sulfur rinse. For demodectic mange, the dip may contain the insecticide amitraz.
Your vet will advise you how to use the prescribed shampoos and dips. You may have to first wash your dog with a shampoo containing benzoyl peroxide to open the hair follicles and make the dip more effective. Let a vet or groomer clip your long-hair dog, if that's necessary. Wear gloves when you apply the rinse. Pour the treatment over your dog's body and allow it to dry. Do not rinse your dog with water.
In the case of ear mites, a topical treatment,
Many of the topical treatments for mites are toxic to pets and humans. Follow your vet's instructions; do not apply treatments more often than instructed.
A vet may prescribe oral or injectable anti-parasitic medications in addition to topical treatments and rinses. Ivermectin, the active ingredient in heartworm medications, is effective in treating mange and ear mites at high doses. This option is beneficial for dogs who won't allow you to clean their ears or apply topical treatments.
Ivermectin is toxic in some dogs. Breeds susceptible include collies, Australian shepherds and old English sheepdogs. Symptoms of toxicity include lethargy, disorientation, inability to stand, vomiting and blindness.
Ivermectin may also interact with the flea medication Comfortis. The interaction causes similar symptoms to those seen in dogs with the gene mutation.
Contact a veterinarian immediately if you see any symptoms of toxicity.
You veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help make your dog comfortable during treatment. The vet may prescribe ointments to reduce itching.
If your dog develops a secondary bacterial infection, he may need a course of antibiotics to clear the infection.