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No More Itching For Gus!

27 July 2016

Gus is a 1 year old English Bulldog, and his story began when he was about 6 months old. Gus’ owners first noticed red spots and hair loss on his left front paw one day, which was unusual as the rest of his coat looked completely normal, and they had not witnessed Gus bothering the area at all.

Gus was taken along to his local vets, who suspected an infection of the hair follicles caused by bacteria, a fungus or a parasite. He was therefore prescribed a course of antibiotics and given a spot-on solution to treat him against possible parasites. Unfortunately, 2 weeks later, there had been minimal improvement, so his vets took further tests to rule out a fungal infection and took skin scrapings to look for a parasite called Demodex, which can cause hair loss in young dogs. However, these tests were all negative.

Over the following days, the owners managed to track down the owners of Gus’ four other littermates and to their surprise, found out they had all been affected by the same problem. All four had been diagnosed with demodicosis, the disease caused by having too many Demodex mites in the skin. As Gus’ red inflamed skin and hair loss were starting to get worse and spread, his vets had him back in for further skin scrapes to look for the parasites, but frustratingly none were found again! With no clear explanation and with hair loss developing on his face and other parts of his body, Gus’ owners were starting to get more concerned. He was therefore referred to Willows to see dermatology Specialist, Jon Hardy.


Gus at Willows Vets


Gus was examined and found to have marked inflammation and hair loss of the skin on his face, body and feet. Despite this, his owners were still sure that Gus had not been scratching or rubbing at any of the sites. Due to Gus’ young age, non-itchy hair loss and inflammation, and with other littermates diagnosed with demodicosis, Jon still suspected Demodex mites were a likely cause despite the previous negative test results. Knowing that these mites can be very difficult to find, Jon performed a different test by plucking small tufts of hair from numerous affected areas and examining them in oil under a microscope. Sticky tape was also placed onto the skin at affected sites and then stained and examined under a microscope to look for signs of bacterial infection. Luckily, after an exhaustive search, Demodex mites were eventually found on Gus’ skin, giving him the same diagnosis as his brothers and sisters. The tests for bacterial infection were negative.

Demodex mites live in the hair follicles and are thought to be acquired in the first few days of life from the mother, so it is likely that the mites were transferred to all the pups in Gus’ litter during feeding. These mites do not normally cause a problem unless their numbers become very high. Diagnosis can be tricky in some cases, as mites are not present at every site and do not affect every hair follicle. Luckily, in young dogs, the prognosis is good and most dogs can be cured over a few months with treatment. Demodex mites are not contagious to other adult dogs or people.


Demodex Mites


Gus was started on treatment with an anti-parasite dip solution rinsed over his whole body once a week and he received a total of 14 dips. We are very pleased to report that the redness and inflammation of his skin resolved over this time, and his hair has grown back completely. He is now off all medications and his prognosis should be very good!

For further see our Canine Demodicosis Information Sheet.