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

August 11, 2022

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

Last updated: July 5, 2022 by Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

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 and won’t create issues later in life. 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 or red 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. 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, 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 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 just a 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 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 remember, mites weld their eggs on the base of the hair shaft and you cannot kill them! 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.

Revolution for dogs and cats is labeled for use to eliminate scabies and ear mites. Vet Basics Lime Sulfur Dip is very effective but much more work and has a strong odor of rotten eggs. Bravecto is used for eliminating mites but is not labeled for this use. While ivermectin is widely used in dogs and cats for mites, it is not labeled for this use. It must be avoided in MDR1 dogs due to toxicity.

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 ear 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 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 contact for 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.

-Dr. Bramlage
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.