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Skin Mites and Mite Eggs On Dog SkinUpdated 8 months ago

Skin mites are the first thing to look for on skin swab samples. Assume treatment is needed if any skin mites or their eggs are detected in your dog’s skin swab samples. 

There are four types of mites searched for on skin cytology: Sarcoptes scabiei (sarcoptic mange; scabies), Demodex canis (demodectic mange), Cheyletiella yasguri (walking dandruff), and Trombiculidae (chiggers). However, unlike ear mites (Otodectes cynotis), skin mites are MUCH more difficult to detect by swab cytology alone. Of the skin mites, only Demodex canis normally lives in dog’s skin (hair follicles and skin glands). In small numbers it goes completely unnoticed without any signs. If the population of D. canis increases, small areas of hair loss can result although often resolve without treatment. In heavy infestations from immune-suppression or underlying disease, inflammation, itch, large patches of hair loss, and secondary bacterial infections can result. D. canis is not contagious to other pets or people. 

On the other hand, both scabies and walking dandruff are contagious to both other dogs and people. Dandruff is more likely from dog-to-dog contact in kennels or shelters while scabies classically comes from contact with foxes or other dogs with scabies. Chiggers is an outdoor environment mite and the only one that lives just a portion of their life on the dog. However, like other mites in high enough numbers, they can cause changes in appearance to the skin, sometimes intense itch, and secondary infections. Both dandruff and chigger mites live on the surface of the skin while scabies and demodex mites burrow within the skin, making the latter two the least likely to see on skin swab cytology alone. In general, mites can multiply FAST and scratching from the irritation and infection they cause can lead to hair loss or hot spots around the head, neck, or body. If detected, the next step should be a physical exam of your dog’s skin by your veterinarian who can prescribe treatment for your dog and any other at-risk pets in your household. 

If no mites were detected but clinical signs (e.g., hair loss or intense itch) are still suspicious for skin mites, then it’s important that your veterinarian next perform a visual skin examination to look for walking dandruff mites or chiggers. The vet will also “skin scrape” to get below the top skin surface in search for any burrowing mites like S. scabiei and D. canis. There are many effective on-label and off-label medications that vets use to clear these infestations. Some are applied topically to the skin while others are given by mouth. There are also several over-the-counter treatments for ear mites of dogs that contain a pesticide called pyrethrin. Apply carefully (correct dosage and frequency) based on your dog’s size and age, as some products are NOT approved for puppies. 

Be aware that PYRETHRIN products are TOXIC TO CATS at too high a dose (causing tremors, seizures, or death), so never let a DOG ONLY pyrethrin product have contact with a cat or kitten!

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Skin & Itch Test Results and Next Steps

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1. Mite Infestation (Mange, Acariasis, Scabies) in Dogs - Dog Owners - Merck Veterinary Manual (

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