Overview of Cheyletiellosis in Dogs
Cheyletiellosis is an itchy, scaling skin disease of dogs caused by infestation with Cheyletiella mites. It is often called “walking dandruff” because when you examine an infested dog, you may see that the “dandruff” is moving. The movement is actually caused by the mites moving around under the scales. Although the mites inhabit the entire body, the scaling and itching often seem worse over the back.
Cheyletiellosis is a contagious and a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be spread to and from other dogs, cats or humans. Dogs can acquire the infection from other pets or humans. The mite is transmitted by close contact with infested animals. Since the mite can live for a few days off the host, it is also possible to become infected through environmental contamination. Eggs are also shed into the environment, which is believed to also be an important cause of re-infestation.
This disease is very contagious making it more prevalent in shelters, humane societies, boarding facilities and grooming establishments where there are lots of pets. Poor sanitation, poor nutrition and overcrowding can lead to infestation. Thus, it is likely for puppies from puppy mills to show up in pet stores with this problem.
Puppies seem to be more susceptible than older animals, but infestation of adults is sometimes seen. Cocker spaniels appear to be predisposed.
The discomfort of itching and the lesions the animal can cause to himself by scratching is directly related to the impact of this disease on the dog.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Cheyletiella Mites in Dogs
A medical history may reveal a scaly, itchy skin problem on one or more of the animals in the home, often after a recent addition of a new pet. These mites can temporarily infest people, so you may experience an itchy rash on arms, belly, back and chest.
Your veterinarian will do a physical exam, which will probably reveal the characteristic scaly skin along the dog’s back. However, not all animals show this distribution of lesions. These mites are large compared to other mites and in cases of heavy infestation, you can see them on the skin with a magnifying glass.
Other diagnostic tests may include:
Treatment of Cheyletiella Mites in Dogs
Although commonly used flea sprays, shampoos and powders may give temporary relief, more aggressive treatment is needed for long term success of walking dandruff mites. Because this disease is contagious, all pets in the home should be treated.