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The most common mite of demodectic mange is Demodex Canis.  All dogs raised normally by their mothers possess this mite as mites are transferred from mother to pup via cuddling during the first few days of life.  Most dogs live in harmony with their mites, never suffering any consequences from being parasitized.  If, however, conditions change to upset the natural equilibrium (such as some kind of suppression of the dog's immune system), the Demodex mites may gain the upper hand.  The mites proliferate and can cause serious skin disease.

Unlike sarcoptic mange, demodectic mange is not considered a contagious disease and isolation of affected dogs is generally not considered necessary.  Current thinking is that mites actually can be transferred from one dog to another but as long as the dog is healthy, the mites simply add into the dog's natural mite population and no skin disease results.  In rare circumstances spread of disease is possible if a severe infection is involved.  While there are still assorted theories about dog-to-dog transmission of Demodex mites, there is no question that mites cannot be transmitted to humans or to cats.

Dr. Lamb is the Veteranarian at the Manchester Animal Hospital.