Real stories from our doctors: Demodex Diagnosis

By Jenifer Itenson, DVM

Banfield Pet Hospital of Wake Forest, NC

 

Case Study: Basic Skin Scrape Leads to Demodex Diagnosis and Full Recovery


Parker, a cute, fuzzy poodle mix, was the type of puppy that you wanted to put bows in his ears even though he was a boy. He was brought in to us at Banfield Pet Hospital in Wake Forest, NC, for a second opinion to determine why he was missing large amounts of fur. He had been treated at a local private practice but the skin condition had not improved. In fact, it was getting worse.

Due to the severity of the condition, a skin biopsy was recommended and that’s where we came in. As our medical team glanced at Parker for the first time, our first thought was that a skin biopsy was not a bad idea. Parker was covered in patches of thick, discolored, flaky skin that were nothing more than one large scab over his entire back and flanks. He was in desperate need of intense medical management. Not only did he look bad, he was in pain.

Looking through Parker’s history, we decided that we still needed to gather baseline data and started off with a basic skin scrape instead of jumping ahead to an invasive biopsy. We immediately had our primary diagnosis – generalized demodex (also called mange) – a common infestation of the skin with tiny, cigar-shaped, eight-legged mites that live and feed in the hair follicle and oil glands of the skin. The impression smear confirmed a secondary bacterial infection but the fungal culture ruled out dermatophytosis (ringworm). I can’t believe that I, a new graduate, figured out the diagnosis right away with preliminary basic diagnostics. Thank goodness for protocols to make sure we cover all our bases! I was so glad that we didn’t ignore the skin scrape and jump to the biopsy. We had the answers without surgery or stitches.

Parker’s body was one large chemical burn that had to be soaked, medicated, scraped and treated every week. He was our first burn victim, so to speak, and the injuries weren’t even caused by a fire; just the intense burning of a parasite infection. After several months of soothing soaks, scraping of sloughing skin, re-testing, medicating for mites and consultations with dermatologists to make sure we were doing everything we could for Parker, he gradually healed. The mites finally died away and then his skin healed and his fur grew back. The cute, fuzzy, buff-colored poodle mix had a dark brown saddle of fur over his entire back. It was a different color than the rest of him, but in any case, it was fur. We all celebrated!

Parker’s wellness plan covered his numerous office visit fees, enabling his owner to put more resources toward his treatment. Our commitment to provide thorough high-quality medicine, evidence-based diagnoses and resources for consultations with experts in various fields of veterinary medicine all contributed to Parker’s full recovery. Today, he visits us twice a year for comprehensive exams and preventive care. Now when I look at him, several years later, I think to myself, “This is Parker? He’s all one color. When did that happen?”