Demodex mites cause Spot's hair loss

Spot is a friendly Jack Russell with a lot of life experience. At 16 years old he is still going strong and enjoying a good quality of life. His only problem has been a long term skin condition causing itching, rashes and patchy areas of hair loss. He has been on a low dose steroid anti-inflammatory for allergic skin disease for some time but recently his skin started getting worse and he was presented to Vetwest Whitfords hoping to find some relief.

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Dr Vanessa Milborn gave Spot a thorough checkup and discovered that he had infections in both his ear canals and widespread patches of hair loss. We performed a swab of both ears, which was promptly examined under the microscope in our laboratory. Immediately we were able to diagnose a yeast infection called Malassezia in both of Spot's ears.
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Spot was a willing patient and also allowed us to perform skin scrapings on the areas of hair loss on his body. Under the microscope we identified many small cigar-shaped mites called Demodex. This mite is present in the skin of most normal dogs. It passes from mother to puppies during suckling when the puppies are 3 to 5 days old. Most dogs have a strong immune system so the mites never cause a problem. However, if the immune system is weak, Demodex mites can grow in large numbers, deep in the skin and hair follicles and can cause the hair to fall out. We commonly see this in dogs less than one year old that are still developing their immunity. In adult dogs, it may indicate that there is some immune suppression going on due to underlying illnesses or medication.
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Our treatment plan for Spot involved weekly injections under the skin to eliminate the mites. We also stopped his long term steroid anti-inflammatories as these may have been suppressing his immune system. We treated his ear infection with some ear drops for Malassezia infections. After 7 days, his ear infection had completely resolved and he was feeling much happier. He is 4 weeks into his mite treatments and there is already an improvement in his skin and the hair is beginning to grow back. Spot will continue on this treatment until we can confirm that he has no more mites on repeat skin scrapings.
If we had not discovered Spot's Demodex mites, the condition would have continued to get worse and his skin allergy tablets would have been unable to control his itching. Spot's experiences highlight how important it is to deal with each skin condition individually and to have regular check-ups if your pet is on long term treatments. New developments in your pet's condition may need testing or changes in treatment to achieve the best outcome.

Skin disease is a very common condition among dogs and cats. Pets can suffer from itching, hair loss, rashes, infections, lumps and changes in skin colour. But not all skin complaints are the same. There are multitudes of possible causes for the symptoms mentioned here and each case needs to be assessed thoroughly in order to reach a diagnosis so that the most effective treatment or management plan can be designed.

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