Types of Dog Skin Mites You Need To Know About

dog skin mitesThere are several types of mange (skin mites) that affect dogs, including canine scabies (sarcoptic mange), ear mites (otodectic mange), walking dandruff (cheyletiellosis), and trombiculosis.

Demodicosis is not considered mange, but it is also caused by mites. Mange is caused by microscopic mites that invade the skin of otherwise healthy pets. The mites cause irritation of the skin, resulting in itching, hair loss, and inflammation. All forms of mange are highly contagious, and both dogs and cats are very susceptible.

Canine Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange):

Not all dogs have signs when they are infested with sarcoptic mange mites. Usually, the pet will have intense itching that comes on suddenly. Initially the infested skin will erupt with small, solid bumps. Because the dog scratches or bites itself to relieve the itch, these bumps and the surrounding skin are often damaged, causing thick, crusted sores.

Secondary yeast or bacterial infections can develop in the damaged skin. Sarcoptic mange is contagious to other pets and to humans. Your veterinarian in Durham or Chapel Hill will do a thorough physical exam including collecting a skin scraping to look for the mites microscopically. In addition to treating mites, your pet may need antibiotics or other medication to treat secondary infections to the damaged skin.

Ear Mites (Otodectic Mange):

Ear mites are usually found deep in the external ear canal, but they are sometimes seen on the body. An infested pet will shake its head and scratch its ears. The intensity of the itching varies. In severe cases, the external ear may become inflamed and produce pus. Dogs and cats with ear mites should be treated with a parasiticide prescribed by your veterinarian.

Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosis):

Dandruff that is seen “walking” is actually the mites moving about on the skin of the dog. Walking dandruff is very contagious, especially in kennels, catteries, or multipet households. Regular use of certain flea preventatives can control the mites that cause walking dandruff. Scaling of the skin and infestation along the back are common signs of walking dandruff. Intense itching is frequent, though some animals do not itch at all.

Pets that show no signs can carry the mites and transmit them to other pets and humans. Definitive diagnosis is made my examining the mites with a microscope. Owners of pets infested with these mites may want to check with their health care provider regarding medication and other steps to control mite infestations in themselves and their home environment.

Canine Demodicosis:

The mites that cause canine demodicosis generally live in small numbers in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands of all dogs and it’s normal for them to be present. However, for reasons not clearly understood, some dogs will have an overgrowth of large numbers of these mites, resulting in inflammation and hair loss. It is suspected that suppression of the immune response to these mites may play a role.

There are 2 clinical forms of canine demodicosis: localized which is limited to a small area and generalized which is found on the entire body. Affected areas are usually hairless, red, or densely pigmented, raised lumps that look like acne. Itching is mild or absent. Microscopic analysis of deep skin scrapings is usually used to confirm a diagnosis . In addition, your veterinarian in Durham or Chapel Hill may also want to test your dog for other infections or diseases that may have suppressed the immune system.


Trombiculosis is a type of mange caused by the parasitic larval stage of mites of the Trombiculosis family. Adults and nymphs look like tiny spiders and live on rotting material. Dogs acquire the larvae by lying on the ground or walking in a habitat infested with them. The larvae attach to the host, feed for a few days, and leave when engorged. They are easily identified as tiny, orange-red, oval dots that do not move. These are usually found clustering on the head, ears, feet, or belly. Signs include redness, bumps, hair loss, and crusts. Intense itching can persist even after the larvae have left the animal.

Diagnosis is confirmed by careful examination of the affected areas. Skin scraping might also be examined under the microscope for evidence of 6-legged mite larvae. Follow your vet’s treatment plan for killing these mites as it differs from other treatment protocols for killing other mites. Preventing re-infestation is often difficult. The most useful approach, if feasible, is keeping pets away from areas known to harbor mites.

If your dog is scratching itself, make an appointment to see one of our veterinarians in Durham or Chapel Hill. If mites are diagnosed, they will be able to prescribed appropriate medication and treatment to relieve your itching dog.