Fleas, Pet Care Basics, Shelter and Rescue Resources, Skin Problem Resources

External Parasites in Dogs and Cats: Lice & Mites on Dogs and Cats

What are the common types of mites on dogs and cats and what is the best way to get rid of them? Vet Basics Lime Sulfur Dip is a great treatment for kittens and puppies with skin issues we can’t resolve. Lime sulfur is an old natural treatment that is safe for your nervous system. Skin infections, fungal problems, and mange are all improved by lime sulfur dipping. Be aware, it smells like rotten eggs, but the odor dissipates quickly.

Demodectic Mange in Dogs and Cats

Demodectic mange, also known as follicular mange, occurs when mites suddenly multiply beyond what the dog can tolerate. This skin disease is caused by the mite, Demodex canis in dogs and cats. Demodex is common in many species of animals. Some have suggested that it is a normal inhabitant of the skin. No matter what, if your dog is showing signs, you need to treat and eliminate if possible.

The primary symptom is patchy hair loss, usually occurring around the eyes and the face, often with a greasy or moist appearance. Demodex is not contagious and dogs only pick up Demodex as babies while they are nursing during the first two weeks of life. They cannot acquire Demodex after that age. A very small number of dogs develop generalized Demodex as young adults. This is a reflection of a specific immune deficiency. Demodex in cats is uncommon, but if a cat gets this, it affects their head and neck area.

The confusion with Demodex is the genetics associated with it. Dogs with Demodex are thought to have an inherited genetic deficiency. Breeders have done a good job of breeding away from Demodex in their dogs as they want a healthy and happy dog with lots of hair. Their success in breeding away from Demodex problems is remarkable.

Sarcoptic Mange on Dogs and Cats

Sarcoptic mange, commonly known as scabies or red mange, is intensely itchy and contagious. Sarcoptic mange attacks the skin of the ears, elbows, and hocks first, but over time will occupy all of your dog or cat’s body. The onset is abrupt with scratching, hair loss, and inflamed skin. Crusty ear tips and hair loss on the elbows are often seen. Treatment includes clipping the hair and removing the crusty lesions.

Sarcoptic is contagious from dog to dog in adults; therefore, all dogs in the family should be treated to eliminate the problem. Though some dogs scratch more than others, there is no real genetic component to sarcoptic mange.

Cheyletiella Mange in Dogs and Cats

Cheyletiella mange, also known as “walking dandruff,” produces scaly skin, but is not as itchy as the other mange mites. Owners often report it looks like cradle cap in kids, dry scalp, and a bit flaky. This is the only mange that crosses species and will spread to cats, birds, and humans. In humans, this mange produces pimple lesions which appear on the inside of the arms. Humans are a temporary host as they do not like living on us.

Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

Ear mites are a specific mange mite that lives in the ear and face areas. They tend to hide in the scale and debris where they are protected from topical treatments that cannot reach them.

Lice on Dogs and Cats

Lice first appear as tiny white egg casings, called nits, which attach to the hair shafts of your dog or cat’s fur. When the eggs hatch, they produce six-legged insects. Dogs and cats are usually infested with lice by contact with another infested dog or cat. Lice do not travel in the environment, but can be transmitted through grooming tools, bedding, kennels, and pet carriers that have not been properly washed after an outbreak. The thing about lice is that they are species specific. So human lice only bite humans and dog lice only bite dogs. Lice do not cross species, so dog lice do not affect humans.

Our attitude toward internal parasites is to manage them to a tolerable level. Our attitude toward the external parasites is to completely eliminate them from our catteries or kennels. We can eliminate these parasites if we pay attention to their life cycle and prevent environmental contamination. Once out of the kennel or cattery, don’t allow them back in!

How to Treat Mites on Dogs and Cats

Eliminate mites and lice. Treat every dog and cat at the same time. You can kill all the adults, but you cannot kill the eggs! These eggs hatch out in seven days, so you need to re-treat in two weeks before they hatch and lay more eggs. Many people treat once and have the problem back in six weeks; you have to treat twice.

One treatment that is off-label is Ivomec® topical or oral . (Never use Ivomec on Collies, Shelties, Collie/Sheltie mixed breeds or other MDR-1 dogs.) If you have collies, Shelties or any other breed with the MDR1 gene concern, consider using Bravecto for mange therapy to avoid giving medications containing ivermectin.

Injectable Ivomec® is used orally and usually mixed with Propylene Glycol to sweeten the taste for dogs, making it easier to get down. Cats cannot have propylene glycol so use Doc Roy’s® Forti Cal™ to sweeten the dose. Most take it well, but if they vomit or spit out the dose, you will have to redo as we need everyone’s parasites killed at the same time to avoid sharing back into the group.

You will need to repeat your treatment again in two weeks. Don’t forget to treat the outside cats and the house dog, or the mites will return. If there is any doubt as to whether or not you have eliminated them, repeat the treatment in one month to be sure you are free of lice and mange mites.


Biosecurity means we never introduce a disease or do not bring an infection or disease back in after we have eliminated it. Put any new arrivals on the end of the building and keep one empty kennel between them and any other dog or cat. Any dog or cat brought in should not be allowed direct contact with another animal for at least three weeks. Treat them twice with Ivomec® or Revolution® before entering the group. Also vaccinate and deworm with Safeguard® before allowing access to the group.

Follow these procedures and you will eliminate lice, mange, and ear mites from your kennel or cattery for good!

If you have more questions on how to treat mange on dogs and cats or mites treatment for dogs and cats, call us at 800.786.4751.

Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.