by Dr. Jeannie Thomason

Demodectic mange, is also called “demodicosis” or red mange and is actually a microscopic mite of the Demodex genus.

Three species of Demodex mites have been identified in dogs:

  • Demodex canis
  • Demodex gatoi
  • Demodex injai

The most common mite of demodectic mange is Demodex canis.



Most dogs have a natural microscopic mite population in small numbers, deep within the hair follicles already in residence. These mites are just a normal part of the flora of the skinand cause no clinical problems. The healthy dog’s immune system keeps them in small numbers very nicely.

Demodex mites feed on cellular proteins, systemic yeast, dietary yeast and/or sugar in the system.

When the immune system is not yet mature(very young puppies) and/or it is compromised, it may not be able to keep the mites under control. The mites begin multiplying out of control and attacking the dog.

Puppies (or adult dogs) infested with demodectic mange are quite simply, immunodeficient. In other words, the puppy or dog’s immune system is not strong or balanced enoughto able to naturally fight off larger numbers of mites to keep them under control.

Signs and symptoms of over-growth appear only when mites reproduce unchecked and occur in unnaturally high numbers. Outbreaks are seen around the eyes, lips and/or lower limbs when the numbers of these mites increase due to the over-worked or stressed immune system no longer able to keep their numbers balanced.

Because the dog’s immune system does not fully mature until the age of 12-18 months, a puppy with demodectic mange that has not been helped naturally to strengthen their immune system, may have relapses through out his or her life unless or until the immune system is mature and strengthened.

Demodectic mange in dogs over 2 years of age is usually classified as adult-onset, and occurs secondary to an underlying cause stemming from a compromised immune system.

Dogs with immune suppression are also candidates for demodectic mange. Demodectic mange can also occur in very old dogs because the function of the immune system often declines with age due to poor nutrition and chemical bombardment through out its lifetime.

The good news is that the immune system is a living thing that can be boosted and improved or it can be – suppressed and compromised.

Many veterinarians do not understand the life of a Demodex mite and how the body can be strengthened to fight off the over-population on it’s own. There is no needfor toxic medications to be taken internally and/or applied externally, which by the way, have long-lasting, detrimental effectsto the already weakened immune system.

Were you told Demodex is a genetic problem?

Sadly, most veterinarians do not understand what genetic truly means. Demodex is NOT in a pet’s genetic make-up. They are a mite that lives on all mammals skin naturallyand again, they are not a problem on a healthy dog. It is only when the immune system becomes overly stressed and compromised that an infestation or infection of the mites occur.

What is happening today is that generations after generations of dogs have been bombarded with vaccinations, fed processed pet food, have had toxic pesticides for fleas, ticks and heart worms forced on them and then, as result, these things actually wear down the immune system with each successive generation until today you hear about demodectic puppies all the time as if it is common and not a big deal.

Let it be known that it is much more about epigenetics – not genetics.

Holistic or natural rearing breeders have found and proven that you can take a dam (mother of puppies) who has produced an entire litter of demodectic pups; put her on a grain free, RAW, species specific diet with just minimal supplementation, take her off all chemical pesticides for a year and then breed her again.  She will not produce any demodex in the subsequent litter!

Nutrition’s Role in Immunodeficiency

Malnutrition is the most common cause of immune deficiency. Poor nutrition compromises the entire immune system and especially the lymphatic system, which channels and carries a clear fluid called lymph that produces immune cells. This makes the body more vulnerable to infection and disease. Therefore, wholesome, raw, species specific nutrition is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing and treating immune deficiency disorders.


A lot of Veterinarians in conventional veterinary medicine still use a toxic chemical called Amitraz or Ivermectin to kill the mites. However,  in recent years they have begun perscribing: Nexgard® or Bravecto®; (even though they are not (yet) licensed for demodicosis, only for fleas and ticks).

The drugs come in a soft chew your dog can eat like a treat. After your dog takes the chew, the drugs circulate in the blood, and when a flea or tick bites your dog, it’s exposed to the chemical and dies.

These drugs are pesticides that work by attacking the nervous system of the fleas and ticks, once they bitten the dog – causing the death of the insect. Now, think about this; If these chemicals are deadly for fleas and ticks, how do you think might it affect a dog?  After all, these toxins circulate through the blood and then throughout the dog’s body and they remain in your dog’s bloodstream for long periods of time!


These toxic chemical based products can and most often reduce the function of the hypothalamus, which helps regulate the body’s metabolism by controlling hormone release in the body.

In animal studies, amitraz caused episodes of increased aggression, as well as some central nervous system depression.

Do a little in-depth research on Ivermectin, Amitraz, Nexgard or Bravecto and read how thier ingredients can be a trigger for immune-mediated diseases as well as liver disease, seizures and death.  In reality these toxic chemical products only serve to keep the immune system in a weakened condition.

Even though some conventional treatments for demodicosis may appear to work for a time, at what expense to your puppy’s or adult dog’s health?

Conventional treatments only address and suppress the symptoms and do not actually cure or take care of the source of the symptoms – the cause!

Since conventional veterinary medicine relies heavily on highly toxic methods of treatment, and suppressed immune function is the cause of demodectic outbreaks, please think long and hard about using conventional treatments if your puppy or dog has demodex.  We need to look for the cause, the reason why the puppy or dog has an over-load of mites in the first place…   We need to locate, address and eliminate the cause.  Just treating a symptom will never truly heal or “cure” your puppy.

Why not consider a safe and natural alternative that will address and eliminate the cause?


Using a combination of a raw, species appropriate diet and naturally sourced supplements (not processed, synthetically bases) you can easily support the immune system while it strengthens and gets things under control.

Immune suppressed dogs especially require a well balanced,*raw meat, organ, gland and bone based diet so that the digestive system and the immune system (70% – 80% of the immune system is housed in the digestive tract) is not further stressed.

*While a raw meat, bone and organ based diet will nourish the puppy and spark the healing of the body quicker and better than anything, If for some reason you are not able to feed a raw diet, please consider feeding a freeze-dried or dehydrated raw diet with no grains or vegetables in it; such as ZiwiPeak

It is vitally important to remember that mites feed on the yeast living in the body, and systemic yeast feed on nutritional yeast and sugars (carbohydrates/vegetables and grains). If you want to break the cycle and weaken or starve the systemic yeastso that the mites are not able to colonize in the pores. Then do NOTfeed grains or vegetables of any kind in the diet.  Feed only what our carnivore companions are designed to eat: meat, bones, glands and organs and in as close to natural form as possible – prey model, franked prey or whole prey if possible.

If you currently feed any vegetables or fruits, (raw or cooked) you will want to stop feeding them all together — in other words, only feed foods that do not readily turn to sugar within the system.

Click HERE to read about how to prevent yeast growth in your dogs.


Species Specific antioxidants, probiotics, enzymes and glandular therapy are especially needed in times of parasite infestations and illness, in order to balance and boost the immune system holisticlly.

Please ask me for suggestions and/or help with the right protocol and/or remedy for your puppy and its unique case if you are not experienced in natural animal care.

You can often do much more harm than good when using what we animal naturopaths call “the spaghetti approach”.  LOL In other words, before you try EVERYTHING that EVERYONE is suggesting online, in forums, veterinary articles, etc. please ask me about a illness specific consultation.  These are normally well under $100.00 and offer specific education and suggestions made especially for your canine companion and their specific health issues.

The recommendations in this article are general suggestions regarding caring for your pet naturally. It is important to look at each pet individually and determine what works best for YOUR pet.

Illness specific, email consultations are available, for less than the cost of an office call and exam with a veterinarian. Click here to learn more



All consultations include a personalized diet and naturopathic protocol suggestions, all custom-tailored to your own pet’s personal needs. This is particularly imperative in pets with complicated health issues, or if you’ve asked advice from online forums or done outside reading and you are getting conflicting information.

REMEMBER: NO DRUGS. NO CHEMICALS. NO DIPS. NO VACCINATIONS. NO GRAINS, POTATOES, VEGETABLES OR YEASTS… Each of these will further damage and compromise the immune system.


Copyright 2003 – 2018  Revised March 2011, September 2015, July 2018

This article is the sole property of Dr. Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole (Wholistic) Dog. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.

Important Disclaimer:

I have provided these articles/information as a source of reference and education only. I cannot be held responsible for misadventure from the misuse of the products featured or any therapeutic method mentioned within this article or on the Website. If there is any doubt regarding any therapy or product mentioned, then please acquire a consult or seek out a qualified natural animal health practitioner.

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