“Walking dandruff”, medically known as Cheyletiellosis, is a skin disease caused by the large reddish Cheyletiella mites.
Young puppies are susceptible to infestation although adult dogs can also get the mites.
Cheyletiellosis is highly contagious and can spread to and from other dogs, cats or humans. (When a person has the skin disease, he will develop an itchy rash with small red rounded bumps, usually on the arms, trunk, and buttocks. The rash will disappear when the mites on the dog are eradicated.)
Cheyletiella mites live on the skin surface and die in around 10 days when they are off their host.
You can find the mites mostly over the neck and along the back of the dog, but occasionally in other parts of the dog’s body as well.
The reason why Cheyletiellosis is commonly called “walking dandruff” is that, when you carefully examine a dog with Cheyletiella mites, you can see as if the dog’s skin flakes (dandruff) are moving.
Of course dandruff cannot walk, but the Cheyletiella mites can and when they move around under the skin flakes, it looks as if the flakes themselves are walking!
Cheyletiella mite infestation is more prevalent in overcrowded places with poor sanitation, such as animal shelters, and some boarding facilities.
For some reasons, Cocker Spaniels seem to be predisposed to this skin disease.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Cheyletiellosis in Dogs
The symptoms of Cheyletiellosis are a red bumpy skin rash along with plenty of flaky skin in the hair coat, especially over the neck and along the back.
Some dogs may scratch incessantly due to intense itchiness, but itching may be completely absent in other dogs.
It is easy to diagnose Cheyletiellosis – by using a flea comb (or even a piece of sticky tape), we can collect some skin flakes. If there are mites or eggs on the skin flakes, then the dog has Cheyletiellosis.
Treatment of Walking Dandruff
The Cheyletiella mites are highly contagious. If you have several pets in the house and one has the mites, you must treat all the pets in order to totally eradicate the mites.
Conventional treatment involves the use of pyrethrin shampoos and lime-sulfur dips (Lym-Dyp). You need to use the dips on the dog once a week for 6 to 8 weeks.
Other conventional medicines include some flea control products such as Frontline®, Advantage®, and Revolution®. You need to topically apply the medicine to the dog’s skin every month, for at least two months.
Some veterinarians also suggest using Ivermectin (either given orally or by subcutaneous injection) as a treatment for cheyletiellosis. Usually the dog has to take the drug every 1 to 2 weeks for at least 4 weeks.
If your dog is a Collie or other herding breeds, DO NOT use Ivermectin because it may cause potential toxic effects in these dog breeds.
Besides treating the infested dog, you also need to treat the home environment to prevent re-infestation.
Wash all bedding in hot soapy water. Vacuum and, if possible, wash carpets and upholstery as well.
Spray the house with a residual insecticide used for killing adult fleas. Repeat the spraying every 2 weeks during the treatment period.
If your dog suffers from a mild case of mange, you may want to first try using milder and natural home remedies for treatment.
Visit our page on Dog Mange Treatment for more information.