Pet of the Month: Mini Martha’s mite-y problem!

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Border Terrier Martha came in to see us at just 14 weeks of age with redness, itching and alopecia (hair loss) on her face, head, forelimbs and abdomen. After a thorough examination, Martha’s vet Monica decided to run a series of skin tests so that we could get to the root of Martha’s condition and relieve her discomfort. On examination of some of Martha’s skin cells under a microscope we could see an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast on the surface of her skin indicating an infection. We also took deep skin scrapes on multiple sites of Martha’s skin. A scalpel blade is used to scrape the skin in the direction of hair growth until a small amount of bruising (capillary bleeding) appears under the skin. It was this scrape that showed the fundamental cause of Martha’s skin reaction – Demodex mites.

Martha was diagnosed as suffering from juvenile generalised Demodicosis (Demodex mite infection) which affects animals between the age of 3 and 18 months. Localised Demodicosis most commonly occurs in puppies between 3 and 6 months old. Whilst adult onset does occur, it’s usually linked with a deterioration in health.

We treated Martha’s Demodex infection and her secondary skin infection with antibiotics as well as paraciticides to remove the mites, and it’s important in cases like this that treatment is continued until both clinical and microscopic cure is achieved. We are delighted that Martha is now in remission and her coat has completely grown back. She looks a different pup! She will have to be closely monitored by her owners for at least 12 months for reoccurrence of clinical signs, but we hope for Martha’s sake her mite problem is gone for good!

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Hair loss and irritation on Martha’s head

Martha 1

Martha’s torso and forearms were also affected

Demodicosis: where does it come from?

Demodex mites live in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands of most mammals. The cigar shaped parasites are transferred from mum to pup in the first few days of life through close contact. It is thought that in some puppies, a defect in the skin’s immune system allows the mites to multiply in the hair follicle and this leads to clinical signs similar to those shown by Martha. Other signs can include pustules, spots or a rash and occasionally an ear infection. In young animals, poor diet, general poor health and having worms can lead to a compromised immune system and a mite eruption. However, in many cases, an underlying cause is never found.