Omigod! MY puppy has mange!
Somewhere amid the hubbub of the week’s news I failed to inform you, my confidants, that my very own dog has caught the bug. Considering his lifestyle (he puts in as many hours as I do at the hospital) the occurrence of something nasty was inevitable.
No, it’s not the predictable kennel cough or the foul dog flu thing (the latter would be devastating). No, I’m referring to the dreaded mange bug. OK so the title gave it away (so much for the build-up).
This kind of mange, however, has nothing to do with his work hours. OK, so perhaps he’s under a little more stress than most dogs, what with his training schedule and his revolving door of playmates at work. But this isn’t something he caught from a buddy or the kitty condo next door.
Nope. Vincent’s got the kind of mange that doesn’t go away with two neat shots, Revolution or a series of stinky, organic dips (like the transmissible Sarcoptic mange). Nope, he’s got demodex (AKA, demodectic or "red" mange).
For the record, I hate demodex. And had it not affected my own pup, I’d still hate demodex. Know why? I have a list (you knew I would) :
1-Because no one likes [often itchy] bald spots on a dog—especially the owners of such dogs.
2-Because parents hate the word “mange.” You may as well have said “pubic lice” for all the goodwill your brilliant diagnosis brings.
3-Because owners of demodex dogs are insulted that it takes weeks(!) to go away.
4-Because I (the one with all the letters after my name) can’t tell them exactly how many weeks will elapse before they have an “unmarred” pup—if ever (life is uncertain).
5-Because demodex sometimes gets worse before it gets better, or vice-versa—in spite of treatment.
6-Because owners are offended that the explanation for the cause of the problem targets their own pet: “Every dog has demodex living on its skin. Your dog’s immune system has aberrantly declined to keep said critters in line.”
7-Because the above explanation can bring angry calls from breeders challenging my diagnosis. (Want to come check out the view from the top of my microscope?)
8-Because owners are seldom convinced that it will not infect their children, their cats, their other dogs, their husbands…
9-Because owners go home and read everything online and come back to me with flying sheafs of paper in full-on, freak-out mode.
10-Because a small percentage of dogs (with the generalized form of the disease) can be horribly affected, become weak, even (very rarely) die of the disease’s complications, I must explain this fact to even the most minutely affected creature’s parents so #9 does not occur.
11-Because every expert has a different take on which demodex-affected pets should and shouldn’t be bred in the future. (Generalized—never! Localized—yes, no, maybe?)
12-Because it’s a pain to treat. Dips or pills—pick your poison. One is extra harsh and topical. The other seems fairly safe but happens to be expensive and hasn’t been widely tested. If I’m very lucky, a patient with a very localized lesion can do fine with diligent application of an ointment called “Goodwinol.”
So there’s the dirty dozen for you. At least with Vincent I don’t have to explain the disease in minute detail to an unsupportive audience. By the way, thanks for your support.
Here’s a photo of a demodectic mange mite under the microscope. After scraping the dog’s skin to a bloody rash (called a skin scrape) we smear the contents of the scraper (a surgical blade) onto an oily slide and voilá!.