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Skin Disorders

There are a good number of skin disorders that your pet is susceptible to. Below I have touched briefly on a few of the more common ones.

Demodicosis (demodectic Mange)

Demodicosis is a skin disease cause by a microscopic parasitic mite. Demodectic mites are found in small numbers in the hair follicles of normal dogs. In dogs with demodicosis, however, these mites proliferate, and large numbers inhabit the skin and hair follicles. Dog may acquire mites from their mother 2 - 3 days after birth.

Demodicosis may involve only one or two small area of skin (localized mange) or large areas of the body (generalized mange). Juvenile-onset demodicosis occurs in dogs 3 to 12 months old, and the shorthaired breeds are most commonly affected. Adult-onset demodicosis generally occurs in dogs more than 5 years old and is often associated with adn internal disease or cancer. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to the generalized form, and breeding these dogs is not recommended.

Localized demodicosis is the mildest form. Usually only a few areas a hair loss on the head or front legs occur. Most dogs with localized form recover completely.

Generalized demodicosis is serious and often difficult to treat. Large areas of the body may be affected, and often the affected areas are also infected by bacteria. In these cases, the skin is red, crusty and warm, and has many pustules. It may bleed easily and has a strong, rancid odor. While most of these cases are curable, some can only be controlled, and periodic re-treatment is necessary.

Demodicosis can also occur as a chronic foot infection in mature dogs.

Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange)

Sarcoptic mange is a skin disease caused by a parasitic mite. It is highly contagious and produces intense itching, reddening of the skin, thinning of the hair, and development of crusts and scabs. Bacterial skin infections commonly occur in the inflamed, irritated skin.

Sarcoptic mites burrow directly into the skin, where they deposit eggs that hatch in 3 to 10 days. The larvae burrow up to the skin surface to feed and molt into a nymph stage. The nymphs travel about the skin surface to feed. They molt into adults, which then mate and deposit more eggs in the skin. The entire life cycle is complete within 3 weeks. Sarcoptic mites prefer skin with little hair, so they are most numerous on the ears, elbows, abdomen and hocks. As the disease spreads, hair is lost and eventually the mites occupy large areas of skin.

Sarcoptic mites may also infest people in close contact with infested dogs. Any people in contact with your dog who develop skin problems should consult a physician.


Skin infections caused by pus-producing bacteria are called pyodermas, Pyodermas may involve only the outermost skin layers (superficial pyoderma) or deeper skin layers (deep pyoderma). These infections require rigorous treatment. Sometimes a combination of treatments may be needed for a prolonged period.

Pyoderms can be especially difficult to treat, and, in some cases, the chances of recovery are poor. Occasionally the bacteria causing the infection are highly resistant to antibiotics, and finding an effective medication can be difficult. Repeated cultures of the skin may be necessary. Some cases require or more surgical treatments.

Flea Control

Because your pet and its environment contain fleas in various stages of development, a flea-control program must consider fleas on the pet and in the environment.

Many flea products are not compatible with each other and cannot be safely used in combination. Also, some insecticides for dogs should not be used on cats.

Veterinarians are concerned, as you are, about insecticide exposure to you, your pets and your household. Consideration will be given to these factors in tailoring a flea-control program for your individual circumstances. Keep the insecticides away from children. Read the container's label carefully when using chemicals and insecticides.

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