All You Should Know About Walking Dandruff in Dogs

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Ever walked into any pharmacy or supermarket lately? You’re likely to find products on the shelves promising not only to get rid of dandruff but also to give your hair a bright, full shine. Dogs don’t have the same luxury.

When dogs get what looks like dandruff, the causes can also be a little more serious. Cheyletiellosis, a form of dog mange known as walking dandruff in dogs, is a skin problem caused by mites.

Read in to find out how to spot and treat this condition that can become irritating and lead to hair loss in dogs.

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What Is Walking Dandruff in Dogs?

The contagious Cheyletiella skin parasite causes a scaling of the skin. Occasionally when there’s a very serious infestation, you’ll see the white mites walking over the skin- hence the more familiar term, “walking dandruff.”

The products many pet owners use to treat their animals for ticks and fleas, also tend to reduce the risks connected with contracting walking dandruff. That means it’s now a relatively uncommon problem. The condition tends to find its way into kennels that are not as clean or well-kept as they should be. Puppies are especially prone.

When untreated, cheyletiellosis can cause further serious skin infections or even chronic skin diseases. This is problematic because if the immune system has to fight off these infections, it gives harmful secondary bacteria the chance to take hold. That, in turn, can lead to excessive scaling, discomfort, hair loss, or itching.

Symptoms of Cheyletiellosis

The most typical signs of walking dandruff in dogs are white flakes on the coat and skin. These are white mites and give the appearance of dandruff.

The majority of dogs with walking dandruff won’t scratch. But, they may have an allergic reaction and it’s that which can cause irritation. You might also see scaly, crusty skin, particularly on their backs. Sneezing is often a common symptom too. 

How Do Dogs Get Walking Dandruff?

The Cheyletiella mites are highly contagious. You’ll often find them in boarding facilities, at groomers, or anywhere dogs come into close contact with other dogs.

The mite sets up home on the hair but visits the skin to feed. Although it spends the majority of its life on the animal, it can survive in the environment for 10 days or so. That makes an infected dog’s bedding or kennel a potential source of infection for other pets.

Cheyletiellosis is a zoonotic disease. That means it can move from animals to humans. Fortunately, humans tend not to be the preferred host for this parasite. Symptoms of human infection are itchy, red bumps that typically sort themselves out once the pet gets treated properly.

If your dog gets a walking dandruff diagnosis, you should talk to your healthcare provider about testing and treatment for yourself and your family.

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How Your Vet Will Diagnose Walking Dandruff in Dogs

Acetate tape preparations and skin scrapes are the most typical tests vets use to make a diagnosis of walking dandruff. 

For acetate tape preparation, your vet will use a strip of tape to pick up small pieces of dandruff from your dog’s coat. They will then place these on a microscope slide and check for Cheyletiella mites. A skin scrape will involve using a blade to scrape cells off a little of the surface of your dog’s skin in an effort to identify the kind of mite involved.

Other typical skin tests a vet may use are:

  • A Wood’s lamp exam with a UV light or blacklight
  • Fungal cultures in which hairs get plucked and placed in a growth medium
  • Skin cytology 
  • Bloodwork or skin biopsies

Treatment for Cheyletiellosis

There’s a variety of treatments for cheyletiellosis or dog mange. Many are topical treatments but they can include: 

  • Lime sulfur baths
  • Topical or spray tick and flea spot-on remedies
  • Oral medications

Your vet will be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment for your pet. All other pets in the same household will need to undergo treatment. So, if you have an infected dog, you should treat your cats, rabbits, or any other pets as well.

Certain treatments are appropriate for some dogs but not for other pets. For example, medications like Ivermectin sometimes used to treat walking dandruff can be toxic to certain herding breeds. Those more susceptible to Ivermectin toxicity include: 

  • Australian and German Shepherd
  • Collie
  • Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs

Check with your vet as to the treatment that is best for your pet and always carefully follow the instructions they give. Make sure you complete any treatments.

You’ll also need to be sure you’ve checked the environment where your pet is living too. Wash all bedding in hot water with plenty of detergents. Clean the house with products formulated to get rid of fleas and mites. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that some animals can be silent carriers and still have mites on their coats. They may not display any obvious clinical symptoms of cheyletiellosis. Your pets should no longer be contagious 3 weeks after treatment. 

Recovery From Walking Dandruff in Dogs

The prognosis for recovery from walking dandruff or cheyletiellosis in dogs is really good provided it gets treated appropriately. Humans will get over walking dandruff with time. That’s even without any treatment due to people being accidental hosts. The infection will therefore usually resolve itself.

Untreated pets can carry on getting infected with Cheyletiella mites over the long term. They can then go on to contract chronic skin disease and secondary skin infections.

Dogs infected and who undergo treatment can become infected again when they are re-exposed. However, contracting cheyletiellosis in dogs does not make them more likely to get it in the future unless they become re-exposed to an untreated source.

Prevention of Walking Dandruff in Dogs

There are a lot of flea and tick products out there that are highly effective against walking dandruff or dog mange. To mitigate the risk of your pet contracting walking dandruff, ensure your pet is up to date with their topical or oral flea and tick preventative medication.

Walking dandruff can be costly to treat. It may take a few weeks and multiple reapplications to get rid of the mites fully. Talk to us about the range of pet insurance plans we can offer.

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