How do I Treat Demodex Mites?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also known as skin mites, demodex mites are tiny pests that thrive on the skin of all breeds of dogs. A canine with a healthy immune system normally does not experience any discomfort from the presence of these pests. However, if the dog’s resistance to infection and disease is weakened in some manner, mites can become extremely painful and will eventually develop into the condition known as mange.

Cat with mange.
Cat with mange.

It is not unusual for a puppy to develop mange. The reason is that the immune system is not yet fully developed in puppies, making it much easier for the condition to develop. While the demodex mites may simply reside in the pores of the skin and do nothing, there is an increased chance that they will activate and begin to create distress. With puppies, a quick trip to the veterinarian will normally clear up the situation quickly. Depending on the severity of the condition, the vet may utilize oral medication, a salve that must be applied to the mange daily, or possibly even a shot of antibiotics.

A dog being washed to treat demodetic mange.
A dog being washed to treat demodetic mange.

Demodex mites can also cause problems for older dogs. The risk increases if some type of ongoing medical problem has weakened the pet’s immune system. If left untreated, the skin will take on a reddish hue and the coat will begin to thin noticeably. Over time, scales and crusty patches will develop and the hair loss will be almost complete around the head and legs. While there is no initial itching to disturb the animal, the presence of the crusty patches eventually become bothersome and may cause the pet to scratch in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort.

Puppies are prone to mange.
Puppies are prone to mange.

At this stage, the vet is likely to recommend a three-fold treatment process to handle demodex mites. Medicated shampoos help to flush out the mites lodged in the pores, as well as any other debris that is clogging the pores. An ointment applied to the surface of the skin after bathing helps to ease the redness and prevent the pores from filling with more debris from the crusty patches. Finally, oral medications help to support the work of the weakened immune system and restore balance to the pet’s health. This range of treatment often requires several weeks to completely rid the pet of mange, but some improvement is usually seen within a couple of days.

Pest control for demodex mites will restore your dog’s coat to its former glory, ease the redness of the skin, and in general alleviate any discomfort your pet may be experiencing. In some instances, the vet may recommend continued use of the salve or medicated shampoo for a short time after the oral medication is discontinued. This will help to clear up any lingering issues and minimize the chances of a recurrence of the condition in the near future.

Applying ointment can reduce discomfort from demodex mites.
Applying ointment can reduce discomfort from demodex mites.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


The best natural remedy is to apply 50 percent peroxide and 50 percent water to fill to make 3 cups. Add in 3 tbsp. borax powder (found in detergent aisle at most grocery stores) and stir until most dissolves. Apply with a clean sponge or wash cloth every day to the affected areas. You will see the areas fizz up as it works to kill infection and the mites under the skin. Eventually over a few weeks, it will heal over. The dog's itching decreases significantly and is safe for the dog.


The best way to beat demodectic mange permanently is to kill the Demodex mites with a product like Mite Avenge by Happy Dog Naturals. De-yeast your dog daily with a homemade rinse and change it's food to a good raw or grain-free formula. Providing a restful, stress-free environment and immune support will also help your dog. Demodex mange is fueled by yeasts, grains and fillers in many dog foods. Using a benzoyl peroxide shampoo will also keep the pores and follicles flushed out which make it hard for the mites to survive. Ivermectin and pesticides are very toxic and cause bad reactions quite often. They can also make the mites harder to kill because they seldom work, but cause the parasites to develop an immunity.

My dog was bald and miserable from generalized demodectic mange. The Mite Avenge people taught me how to help my dog recover. Nothing else I tried worked and I had spent thousands on other products and vets. The vets almost killed my dog. No one told me about how toxic Ivomec is and they just kept giving it over and over.


@burcidi-- Coconut oil is a great remedy. It's antibacterial so it will kill the mites as well as moisturize and nourish the skin. Just massage it into the pet's skin, let it sit in for a while and then wash.


I agree that immune system and stress has a lot to do with whether demodex mites on pets develops into mange or not.

My dog Lucy has been suffering from skin problems for a long time and it's not just mites but a series of different problems. I'm convinced that she just has a weak immune system. She also gets stressed out a lot, from visiting the vet, having to stay home alone at home when I work, etc.

I'm doing my best to help her, but I'm wondering if I should be treating her weak immune system and stress rather than the mites. Treating the mites doesn't seem to do much good because they just come back after several months.


Are there any natural home remedies for demodex mites?

My dog is very sensitive to chemicals and will have an allergic reaction if I use any medicated shampoos and treatments on her. I need to use something natural. Any advice?


@pleonasm - Actually the demodex mites are on humans as well. They are very similar to the mites we all have on our eyelashes, and which help to keep them clean. You can see them for yourself if you look at one of your eyebrow or eyelash hairs under a microscope.

There is some evidence they may be linked to rosacea which is a kind of skin condition similar to acne, but they aren't sure about that. I imagine it's the same thing as with dogs, most of them have the mites in small numbers, but occasionally they get out of control.


@KoiwiGal - Well, I think it's OK to feed your dog the cheaper foods as long as you make sure they get some raw food (like rabbits or whatever) in there as well. You're right though, there's a reason mistreated dogs often have mange on top of malnutrition.

But it's not the whole story. Don't think that you've been a bad dog owner if your dog gets this condition. The mites are on most dogs and sometimes they get out of control for no reason (just like normal bacteria in humans sometimes get out of control).

As long as you do whatever you can to prevent demodex mites in your dogs and clear them up if they occur, then you're doing just fine.


There's nothing sadder than a dog with a skin condition. Personally, I think the best thing you can do is try to prevent these demodex mange mites by keeping your dog's immune system up to scratch. And the best way to do that is to feed them properly.

A lot of people seem to think all you have to do is buy the cheapest kibble available and just let their dog live on that and the occasional bone. But cheap dog foods are the same as giving your dog a junk food diet, and imagine how sick you would get living on that.

If you want to protect your dog from this kind of skin infection as well as other infections, that starts by making sure they are getting the best food available.


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Thank you so much for posting such great information.

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