Do All Dogs Have Skin Mites?

What Are Skin Mites in Dogs?

Skin mites are tiny arachnids that live on the skin and cause irritation, itching, and hair loss in dogs. There are several different types of mites that can affect dogs:

  • Demodex mites – These mites live in hair follicles and are a normal inhabitant of dog skin. But some dogs have an overgrowth causing mange. Demodex is not contagious to other animals or people (Merck Vet Manual).
  • Sarcoptes scabiei – These mites burrow into the skin and cause severe itching and crusting. They are very contagious to other dogs and people (Nexgard).
  • Otodectes cynotis – Ear mites that live on the surface of the ear canal and cause itching, head shaking, and ear inflammation.

Mites can affect any part of a dog’s body but are often found on the ears, elbows, armpits and paws where the skin is thinner. Symptoms of mites include:

  • Intense itchiness and skin irritation
  • Redness, crusting, and hair loss
  • Scabbing and open sores
  • Skin thickening and darkening

How Do Dogs Get Mites?

Mites spread to dogs through direct contact with infected animals. Since mites thrive on dogs, they easily spread between canine playmates through close interactions. Puppies are especially susceptible as mites can pass from a mother dog to her litter. According to Purina, certain breeds like German Shepherds and Bulldogs seem more prone to mite infestations.

Mites spread easily in places where dogs congregate. Kennels, dog parks, grooming salons and daycares tend to have higher mite exposure. Bringing an infected dog into your home or yard can allow mites to spread to your pet. Stray and rescue dogs commonly deal with mites before adoption. Nexgard explains that even healthy dogs can carry low levels of mites without showing symptoms.

In most cases, mites spread through direct contact and do not survive long away from a host. However, a few types like ear mites and Sarcoptes scabiei mites may spread via bedding or surfaces on rare occasions. Thoroughly washing bedding and vacuuming can help reduce environmental mite exposure.

Are Mites Always Present?

Many healthy dogs have low levels of mites like Demodex as normal inhabitants on their skin without showing any symptoms of illness (4 Types of Dog Mites And What to Do About Them). These carrier dogs have immune systems that keep the mite numbers under control.

However, mites can proliferate rapidly in dogs with compromised immune systems. Stress, poor nutrition, or other illnesses are factors that allow mite populations to grow unchecked. Even though carrier dogs may not show symptoms, they can still spread mites to other dogs.

For these reasons, mites tend to be present at low levels in most dog populations. But presence alone does not mean a dog will develop mange. Only when mite numbers explode out of control do they cause the skin irritation, itching, and hair loss associated with mange.

Diagnosing Mite Infestation

If you suspect your dog may have a mite infestation, the first step is to take them to the veterinarian for an examination. Vets will check for common symptoms associated with mites, such as hair loss, scaly or irritated skin, and excessive scratching or biting at the skin. They will thoroughly examine areas where mites commonly affect dogs, like the ears, elbows, armpits and around the eyes and muzzle.

To confirm the presence of mites, vets will take skin scrapings and exam them under a microscope. Using a special blade, the vet will gently scrape the surface of the skin to collect skin cells and debris. This is a quick and painless procedure. When examined under a microscope, mites may be visible moving around amongst skin cells and debris. Skin scrapings allow the vet to identify the type of mite infestation, which will determine the appropriate treatment method.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, some clinics may also collect and analyze stool samples when mite infestation is suspected, as certain types of mites can be detected through fecal examination (source).

Treating Mites in Dogs

There are several effective treatment options for eliminating mites in dogs. Some common treatments prescribed by veterinarians include:

Medicated dips – These full-body dips involve submerging the dog in a medicated rinse containing an insecticide that kills mites on contact. Some common active ingredients in dips are pyrethrins, amitraz, and ivermectin.

Spot-ons – These topical treatments are applied to a dog’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. The medication then spreads over the body to kill mites. Common active ingredients include selamectin, fipronil, and moxidectin (Source).

Oral medication – Pills containing ivermectin, milbemycin, or moxidectin are sometimes prescribed. These antiparasitic medications circulate through the bloodstream to kill mites (Source).

In addition to medicating the dog, environmental control is also important. All bedding should be washed in hot water and vacuuming should be done thoroughly. This helps eliminate any mite eggs or larvae lingering in the environment.

Preventing Mite Infestations

There are several steps dog owners can take to help prevent mite infestations in their pets:

Grooming and Hygiene: Regular grooming and bathing can help reduce mites by removing dead skin and hair where mites like to hide and breed. Use mild dog shampoos and rinse thoroughly. Also check for signs of mites while brushing. Keeping bedding clean is important too [1].

Limit Contact with Other Dogs: Since mites easily spread between dogs, limiting contact with unknown dogs can reduce exposure. If contact can’t be avoided, thoroughly inspect and groom your dog afterward.

Veterinary Checks: Annual vet checks allow detection of early signs of mites before major infestation. Vets can prescribe effective anti-parasitic treatments as needed. More frequent checks may be advised for high-risk dogs [2].

When to See the Vet

If your dog is persistently scratching, biting, or licking certain areas of their skin, they may have a mite infestation that requires veterinary attention. Mites cause severe itchiness and irritation as they burrow into the skin and hair follicles. While mild cases can sometimes clear up on their own, moderate to severe infestations often require prescription medications to fully eliminate the mites.

You should also contact your vet if you notice any hair loss, bald patches, or scaly/flaky skin. These are key signs of mange mites feeding on skin cells and keratin. The irritation and skin damage from mites tends to worsen over time without treatment. Areas commonly affected include the face, ears, elbows, and legs. However, demodectic mange can cause hair loss over the entire body.

Veterinarians can perform skin scrapings, skin cytology, or biopsy to confirm mites under a microscope. Your vet will recommend appropriate antiparasitic medications based on the type and severity of infestation. Prompt treatment is important not only for your dog’s comfort, but also to prevent the mites from spreading and causing a major outbreak in your home or kennel.


Mite Risks if Left Untreated

If a mite infestation goes untreated in dogs, it can lead to some serious consequences. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual (,-acariasis,-scabies-in-dogs), some of the main risks include:

  • Skin infections – Mites cause constant irritation and damage to the skin through their burrowing and feeding behaviors. This can allow secondary bacterial or fungal infections to take hold.
  • Discomfort and itching – The presence of mites leads to intensely itchy skin. Dogs will scratch, rub, and bite at themselves constantly to try and relieve the itchiness, which can cause wounds and skin trauma.
  • Hair loss – The irritation, scratching, and skin damage can cause patches of hair loss and bald spots. These may start small but can spread across the body.

According to NexGard (, if left untreated, the intense itching and discomfort from mites can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life. Dogs may develop anxiety, behavioral issues, and self-trauma from constantly scratching. Treatment as soon as mites are detected is important to avoid these consequences.

Outlook for Dogs with Mites

The prognosis for dogs with mite infestations is generally good if the condition is properly diagnosed and treated. Mites are usually responsive to medications prescribed by a veterinarian. With prompt treatment, most dogs make a full recovery.

Localized mange involving small patches of skin can often be treated topically with medicated dips, shampoos, or spot-ons. Generalized mange affecting large areas of the body usually requires oral or injectable medications prescribed by a vet. These medications kill the mites and allow the skin to heal.

Without treatment, mites can spread and worsen over time. The dog may become very uncomfortable and develop secondary skin infections. However, with veterinary care and owner compliance with treatment recommendations, the prognosis for dogs with mites is very positive. Most dogs respond well to treatment and can make a full recovery within a few weeks when medications are administered as directed.

After treatment, dogs should be monitored for any recurrence of symptoms which may indicate a new infestation. With prompt treatment of any recurring mites, the long-term outlook remains good. Overall, mites are very treatable parasites that can be successfully managed if diagnosed and treated early.

The Bottom Line

While mites are fairly common in the dog population, especially in puppies and certain predisposed breeds, not all dogs have mites or mange. Mites tend to be opportunistic parasites that infect dogs with weaker immune systems or skin issues. However, even healthy dogs can get mites, especially if exposed to environments or other infected dogs. With proper diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, mite infestations in dogs are very manageable.

Though mites can initially be alarming for pet owners, try not to panic. With veterinary care and monitoring, most dogs make a full recovery and symptoms resolve. Some lifestyle adjustments like more frequent grooming and vacuuming may be needed temporarily to clear the mites. Be vigilant about skin changes in your dog and address them promptly. Under a veterinarian’s guidance, mites do not have to pose a major, long-term threat to your dog’s health and comfort.

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