Treating red mange not the obstacle it used to be

Q: “Betsy,” my Bulldog puppy, just celebrated her first birthday. She was at the vet’s office last week for a check up, and she had a few red spots on her. My vet tested her, and she has red mange. I was so shocked that I really forgot everything the vet told me! Can you please tell me more about her disease and what I should be doing to help her? P.W. Farragut

A: Getting a diagnosis like mange can be upsetting, but it’s not as bad as it was historically. “Red mange” is caused by a mange mite called Demodex canis. Hair loss is the primary sign that is noticed by dog owners.

Demodex is not contagious to you and rarely to other pets. Veterinary researchers believe that all dogs may carry the mite, but only in those with a suppressed immune system will the mite reproduce and cause disease.

In past years, treatment has consisted of weekly dips or daily oral medication, or sometimes in very mild cases, a topical ointment. In recent years, new oral therapies have become more effective.

Whatever type of therapy is prescribed for Betsy, be sure to follow your vet’s instructions closely and follow up with rechecks, as some dogs may take six to 12 weeks to clear up. Some dogs will also get a secondary bacterial infection, so if Betsy’s spots aren’t clearing up, set up an appointment with your vet if additional medication is needed.

Dogs can have localized mange, which means they have four areas of hair loss or less. They have a better prognosis than dogs with generalized mange, in which the mange mites cause more loss in more locations.

Prognosis is dependant on many factors, such as age of diagnosis, severity of disease and other concurrent diseases that could be affecting a pet’s immune system.

Although some dogs will spontaneously clear the mite without treatment, a small percentage of dogs will continue to struggle with the disease throughout their lives.

It should be noted that stresses in the dog’s life, such as pregnancy and whelping, can unfortunately cause relapses to occur. Since there is a hereditary component to this disease, it is generally recommended that dogs with Demodex be spayed or neutered.

Please follow your vet’s recommendations for treatment and rechecks, and hopefully Betsy will be looking and feeling great soon.

Best of luck to you both.

If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at