Red Skin and Hair Loss in a Dog: Magnolia’s Demodex Infection and Excessive Self-Licking

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.

Red Skin and Hair Loss in a Dog: Magnolia's Demodex Infection and Excessive Self-Licking

Magnolia’s story

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.

Magnolia’s treatment

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.

Source story:
Pet Case Study: “Magnolia” a Dog Licking Excessively

Related articles:
Excessive Licking in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Licking Incessantly?
Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Losing Hair?

Further reading:
Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsDemodexDog health advocacyExcessive lickingHair lossInfectionsReal-life StoriesSkin issuesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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