whats the easiest way to rid your dog of demodectic (red) mange?

Wish it Wasn’t Necessary to Add This

No Motor Oil

Some 30 years ago, dipping dogs with demodectic mange in motor oil was a popular home remedy. Skin exposure to motor oil can cause rashes and skin destruction in severe cases. The hydrocarbons can be absorbed through the skin and cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. If motor oil is licked off the coat, resultant vomiting can lead to aspiration of motor oil into the lungs and pneumonia. Kidney and liver damage can result from motor oil dipping.

Please: Do not dip your dog in motor oil!


The younger the dog, the better the chance of cure. In many cases of adult-onset demodicosis, the disease is controlled by dips and baths but cure is not always possible. Some cases can never be controlled.

Current Treatment Of Choice — Ivermectin

Ivermectin is a broad spectrum anti-parasite medication generally used for food animals and horses. In dogs and cats it is licensed for use as a heartworm preventive aand as a topical ear mite therapy; the use of this medication to treat demodicosis is not approved by the FDA. When ivermectin was a new drug, it was hoped that it could be used against demodectic mange mites as at that time only labor intensive dipping was available for treatment. Once it was discovered that daily doses are needed (most other parasites can be controlled with wormings spaced several weeks apart) ivermectin was found to be highly effective, quickly becoming the treatment of choice. Ivermectin is inexpensive relative to Milbemycin (see below) and involves no labor intensive bathing. It DOES, however, taste terrible if given orally (it may be necessary for the owner to learn how to give ivermectin as an injectable treatment.)


There is an unfortunate tendency for people hoping to save money to get their hands on large animal formulations of ivermectin and attempt to home treat this condition. The chief reason why this is a bad idea is “ivermectin sensitivity,” a phenomenon famous in the collie breeds. It is important to realize that sensitivity to ivermectin may not be predictably limited to “collie breeds” and thus it is often prudent to use a lower test dose before initiating the relatively high doses of ivermectin needed to treat demodicosis. Recently a DNA test has been developed by Washington State University which can determine whether or not an individual has ivermectin sensitivity. (The test uses a cheek swab – for details visit www.vetmed.wsu.edu/vcpl). Not all individuals of collie heritage are sensitive to ivermectin.

Another important reason not to attempt home treatment of this condition with ivermectin is that there is a range of ivermectin doses used in the treatment of demodicosis and it seems that higher doses do clear infection faster than lower doses. This means that if a lower dose has been ineffective, a higher dose may still work. This does not mean that a pet owner should experiment with ivermectin doses on their own as there is some potential for lethal toxicity if this drug is not used appropriately. It does mean, though, that the affected dog needs to be appropriately rechecked at the proper intervals so that the mite numbers can be checked and it can be determined if the dose should be increased.

Traditional Treatment — Amitraz (Mitaban) Dips

Unless the animal is largely bald or has a short coat, complete clipping will be required for maximal contact with the dip.

Dip should be preceded by a benzoyl peroxide bath (oxydex or pyoben shampoo). This helps clear up skin infections and also helps open the hair follicles so the dip can penetrate to the mites. Shampoo must sit on the pet at least 10 minutes before rinsing. Caution: This type of shampoo can stain jewelry and clothing.

Dip is applied by sponge. Gloves should be worn while applying dip. The dip dries on the dog’s fur and should not be rinsed off. The dog should not get wet between dips.

Dipping occasionally yields mild sedation as a side effect. Very small dogs may become highly sedated and require an antidote but this is unusual. For your convenience, dipping and bathing may be performed at the hospital thus allowing for veterinary supervision in the event of side effects.

Dipping/bathing is recommended every 2 weeks on the bottle of dip. Most universities are finding that the cure rate jumps from 25% to 80% when dip is used at double strength and applied weekly. No toxic effects have been seen using the dip in this way and this is our current recommendation except in very small dogs and puppies.

The pet’s skin is scraped every 2 weeks until 2 consecutive scrapings are negative. Dipping/bathing is discontinued and the pet is rechecked in one month. Dipping/bathing are reinstituted if mites are again found.

Amitraz dipping should not be used in toy breeds or in very young puppies.

NOTE: Amitraz is a drug of the monoamine oxidase inhibitor class. People who are taking selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors (such as Prozac®) could have a bad reaction to the use of amitraz if they administer dips to pets.

NOTE: Recently Upjohn Pharmacia merged with Pfizer Animal Health. Prior to this, Mitaban dip was on an “indefinite” backorder. Pfizer Animal Health plans to reintroduce Mitaban dip as soon as possible and does not consider this product to have been discontinued. Large animal formulations of Amitraz are available but their use in small animals is considered to be off-label. If you are interested in Amitraz therapy for demodicosis, consult your veterinarian.

Something Else Your Veterinarian Might Try — Interceptor®

Interceptor (active ingredient: Milbemycin oxime) is normally marketed as a monthly heartworm preventive; when it is used on a daily basis, it is effective against generalized demodicosis. This discovery was welcomed by the veterinary profession as finally demodicosis could be treated without labor-intensive dipping. The downside to this treatment is expense, plus an owner can expect to be using this medication daily for up to 3 months to achieve cure.

Interceptor may be used in any patient safely; the only downside is expense.