If your dog pays excessive attention to parts of their body, so should you.
While there are exceptions, a dog will lick themselves excessively when something itches or hurts. That is a clue to you to look for a cause. There are two reasons for that:
- catching a problem early
- excessive licking leads to further harm
Even though licking might be the only sign you notice at first, other symptoms are likely to crop up over time. For example, whenever my dog licked any part of their body excessively, I found a brewing infection or a foreign body.
What is Demodex?
Demodex, or demodectic mange, is a disease caused by microscopic mites, Demodex Canis. These mites normally reside in the hair follicles.
If a dog is healthy, with a functional immune system, it controls the mite populations, and they live out their lives, causing no harm. However, when the immune system fails to keep them in check, the mites multiply uncontrollably and invade the tissues to the point of disease.
Demodex is primarily a disease of young dogs with immature immune systems or adult dogs with weakened immune systems.
Demodectic mange is not contagious to other animals or humans.Dr. Ernest Ward, DVM
Symptoms of demotectic mange
Demodex can affect your dog only in certain areas—localized or all over the body—systemic. Localized Demodex is usually mild, affecting especially the face, torso, or legs.
Demodex isn’t as severely itchy as sarcoptic mange, and the symptoms include:
- hair loss
- skin redness
- scales and lesions
The irritation causes the dog to lick the affected areas. That, however, isn’t a treatment for it.
Magnolia was a young, intact, female German Shepherd. She ended up at a veterinarian because she was excessively licking her paws. She had areas of red skin with no hair. The issue worsened during a heat cycle. It was making Magnolia quite miserable. Her hairless skin looked angry and painful.
Was her skin unhappy because of all the licking, or was she licking herself because her skin was unhappy? Was she suffering from allergies?
At the veterinarian
When the veterinarian examined Magnolia rather than allergies, he suspected Demodex—red mange. So he plucked hair samples from Magnolia’s paws and collected skin scraping to take a closer look.
Indeed, the mites were readily visible under the microscope.
Because at this point, Magnolia’s skin was so damaged, she not only needed treatment to control the mites but also antibiotics to control her secondary bacterial infection. It can take several months of therapy for the infection to resolve.
Magnolia was also spayed because she had no underlying systemic condition and her heat cycle contributed to the problem.
With treatment, Magnolia’s skin healed, her fur grew back, and she is again a happy, healthy dog.
Pet Case Study: “Magnolia” a Dog Licking Excessively
Demodectic Mange in Dogs