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Dalmatians & Demodicosis

Dalmatians & Demodicosis

Demodex mites are present on the skin of all dogs but in some animals born with a defective immune system the numbers increase and begin to cause problems. Dalmatians are usually cited as one of the most common breeds affected with this condition. Although it is thought to be genetically transmitted, the mode of transmission has never been conclusively demonstrated.

Most cases of demodicosis are seen in young pups and fully 90% of cases self-cure with or no medical intervention by the time these dogs reach18-36 months of age. In these cases, it is suspected that the immune system is marginally compromised and eventually matures and gets the condition under control. On the other hand, some pups (about 10% of those initially affected) do not get better and, in fact, become progressively worse. These are thought to have more severe immunologic compromise and are often labeled as having "generalized demodicosis."

The diagnosis is easily made by scraping the skin with a scalpel blade and looking at the collected debris under a microscope. The Demodex mites are cigar-shaped and are easily seen. What is harder to identify is the immunoiogic defect that allowed the condition to occur in the first place. Recent research has suggested the problem may be linked to a decrease in interleukin-2 response but the genetics is still a question.

If the cause of the immune dysfunction can be cured, the mange will resolve on its own. Likewise, if the pup outgrows its immunoiogic immaturity or defect, the condition will self-cure. This process can best be assisted by ensuring a healthy diet is being fed, treating for any internal parasites or other diseases, and perhaps using cleansing shampoos and nutritional supplements that help bolster the immune system. However, if the condition does not resolve on its own, or if it is getting worse despite therapy, special mite-killing treatments are necessary.

Amitraz is the most common dip used. It must be remembered that killing the mites will not restore the immune system to normal. Regarding prevention, it is best not to breed Dalmatians with a history of demodicosis and dogs with generalized demodicosis should never be bred.

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