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Dalmatian Health Problems

Demodicosis Among Dalmatians


Demodex mites are present on the skin of all dogs but in some animals born with a defective immune system the numbers increase and begin to cause problems. Dalmatians are usually cited as one of the most common breeds affected with this condition.

Most cases of demodicosis are seen in young pups and fully 90% of cases self-cure with or no medical intervention by the time these dogs' reach18-36 months of age. In these cases, it is suspected that the immune system is marginally compromised and eventually matures and gets the condition under control. On the other hand, some pups (about 10% of those initially affected) do not get better and, in fact, become progressively worse. These are thought to have more severe immunologic compromise and are often labelled as having "generalized demodicosis."

Scraping the skin with a scalpel blade and looking at the collected debris under a microscope easily make the diagnosis. The Demodex mites are cigar-shaped and are easily seen. What is harder to identify is the immunologic defect that allowed the condition to occur in the first place. Recent research has suggested the problem may be linked to a decrease in interleukin-2 response. If the cause of the immune dysfunction can be cured, the mange will resolve on its own. Likewise, if the pup outgrows its immunologic immaturity or defect, the condition will self-cure. Ensuring a healthy diet is being fed; treating for any internal parasites or other diseases, minimizing stress and perhaps using cleansing shampoos and nutritional supplements that help bolster the immune system can best assist this process. However, if the condition does not resolve on its own, or if it is getting worse despite therapy, special mite-killing treatments are necessary.

Amitraz is the most common dip used. It must be remembered that killing the mites will not restore the immune system to normal. Regarding prevention, it is best not to breed Dalmatians that have a lowered immune system due to demodicosis, or that have a lower immune system for any reason for that matter.

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