“Walking dandruff”, medically known as Cheyletiellosis, is a skin disease caused by the large reddish Cheyletiella mites.
Young puppies are susceptible to Cheyletiellosis although adult dogs can also be affected.
It is highly contagious and can be spread to and from other dogs, cats or humans. (When a person is infected, 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 off their host.
They are found mostly over the neck and along the back, but occasionally can be found in other parts of the 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 places that are overcrowded 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 and if mites or eggs are found, diagnosis is confirmed.
Treatment of Walking Dandruff
As the Cheyletiella mites are highly contagious, all pets in the house must be treated to totally eradicate the mites.
Conventional treatment involves the use of pyrethrin shampoos and lime-sulfur dips (Lym-Dyp). Dips may need to be done weekly for 6 to 8 weeks.
Other conventional medicines include some flea control products such as Frontline®, Advantage®, and Revolution®. The medicine is topically applied 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. This drug is usually used 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, the home environment has also to be treated to prevent re-infestation.
All bedding should be washed in hot soapy water. Carpets and upholstery should be vacuumed and if possible washed.
The house should be sprayed with a residual insecticide used for killing adult fleas. The spraying should be repeated every 2 weeks during the treatment period.
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