Mange is a general term used to describe a skin disease in dogs that is caused by parasites. Although there are many causes of mange including Sarcoptes and Cheyletiella mites, the most common type of mange in dogs is caused by the Demodex mite. 

I’m a veterinarian who has diagnosed and treated hundreds of dogs with demodicosis, also called red mange. In this article, I’ll go over some general information about Demodectic mange as well as share some tips for home care that can speed up your pup’s recovery.

Demodectic mange is a common skin condition in dogs that can lead to a serious secondary infection if left untreated. If your dog has early stage mange, you may be able to treat it using a few simple home remedies. In this article, we’ll discuss the best home remedies for early stage dog mange, including topical treatments, good nutrition, and immune system support.


There are three common microscopic, parasitic mites that cause the condition people call mange. The first two–Sarcoptes and Cheyletiella are contagious between dogs, other animals and even humans. They usually cause intense itching. 

The third mange mite, Demodex, is not contagious to other animals or humans. Humans and cats have species specific Demodex mites that are not passed to dogs.

Demodex mites rarely make dogs itchy. The main symptoms of demodectic mange are patchy hair loss and sometimes redness or scabs. Dogs with severe cases may have a secondary bacterial or fungal skin infection that creates a bad odor. 

I’ll only talk about demodectic mange in this article since it is the most common type to affect owned dogs in the U.S. It’s diagnosed most often in dogs under two years of age but it can occur at any age. Certain breeds are predisposed to the problem including Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Chinese Shar-Peis, Pit Bulls, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs.

2 pit bulls sleeping, one has hair loss from mange
Classic patchy hair loss seen with Demodex.


What causes dog mange?

Demodex canis is a microscopic mite that lives in a dog’s hair follicles. Most dogs have a few that never cause any problems. Scientists speculate that puppies get the mites from their mothers during nursing. Some dogs have an inherited defect in their immune system that allows the parasitic mite to multiply enough to cause skin inflammation.

The tendency to have demodectic mange outbreaks lasts for a dog’s entire life. Older dogs taking immune-suppressing drugs may have outbreaks. Dogs who are sick with some other disease such as cancer may also experience outbreaks.

Demodectic mange infections are often mild and are limited to one or two spots of hair loss. In some cases, the problem becomes widespread and may even make most of a dog’s hair fall out. Generalized demodicosis is more likely to occur in dogs with a poor diet, poor shelter, parasites, etc. 

Because many other diseases have similar symptoms, you’ll need the help of your veterinarian to make a diagnosis. A simple skin scraping sample examined under a microscope is all that’s needed in most cases.

black and white puppy with hair loss on top of head from mange
Typical early stage mange lesion on the top of a puppy’s head.


What can I do for early stage mange at home?

Does your pup have localized demodectic mange with only one or two small lesions? Here are a few things you can discuss with your vet to see if it’s appropriate for your unique dog…

Topical Treatment 

Topical treatments can aid in clearing mild cases of early stage mange. They are not effective enough to be used as a sole treatment, especially for dogs with generalized demodicosis.

Benzoyl peroxide is an oxidizing compound that is often used in skin disease medication. It works by flushing out hair follicles, where Demodex mites live. If your dog has a localized case of mange, you can use a 5% benzoyl peroxide gel applied to the affected areas a couple of times a day. If your dog has generalized demodicosis, you may want to try a benzoyl peroxide shampoo instead.

Another option is Goodwinol, an ointment containing the insecticide rotenone. This is available without a prescription and may be used for early stage mange from Demodex

Finally, you can try neem oil, which is derived from the seeds of an evergreen tree. Neem oil is mild enough to be used for spot treatment of mange and may be added to a medicated shampoo for bathing your dog.

Good Nutrition 

Good nutrition can help your dog beat mange by strengthening their immune system. Choose high-quality puppy food from a major national brand. Check the label to make sure the food is OK to feed to puppies. Also check that the food is formulated to meet AAFCO standards. 

A few of the national brands recommended over and over by veterinarians include Purina®, Iams®, Nutro®, Science Diet® and Royal Canin®. These companies have long track records of producing quality products backed by scientific research. 

Puppy food doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does need to have all the right nutrients in the right amounts for a growing dog. It also needs to be fresh and free from bacteria and other contaminants. 

Don’t take chances on unproven food because the stakes are too high with puppies! 

Immune System Support

Demodectic mange occurs when a faulty immune response of a dog’s T-cells allows the mites to proliferate in the skin. Immune system support may help your dog fight off the mites more quickly. 

Probiotic supplements increase the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut. Since the gut contains a huge part of the immune system, better gut health may bring better skin health. Daily probiotics made specifically for dogs are available from your vet or over the counter and are generally well-tolerated by dogs. The product I choose most often is NutriMax Proviable DC®.

Antioxidant supplements contain vitamins such as B6, C, and E, as well as magnesium, copper and selenium to keep harmful oxidation processes in check. Regular use may improve a dog’s immunity and help them beat mange. The product I recommend to my clients is VetriScience Cell Advance®. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are a special type of nutrient that is found in high concentration in fish oil. These oils counteract inflammatory substances that occur in cases of Demodectic mange. Look for a dog specific product and follow the label directions. I always buy Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet® liquid fish oil for my dogs.

Please discuss it with your vet before giving your dog any new supplement, especially if your dog is less than one year old.

fish oil in a spoon for dogs

Learn more about giving your dog fish oil

Home Remedies for Dog Mange

The internet is full of advice telling you to use apple cider vinegar, olive oil, mayonnaise, coconut oil, borax, lemon juice and many other household items to treat mange. Listen to me: none of those things work! I wish they did, but seriously–don’t waste your time.

Mild cases of demodectic mange often clear up with no treatment at all. That’s why people claim their home remedy worked. When I say mild, I mean one or two spots of hair loss no larger than the size of a nickel coin.

Time and good nutrition may be all your dog needs to beat mild demodectic mange. Your veterinarian is your best resource when deciding if this is a reasonable approach for your unique dog. 

Home Remedies for Dog Mange That WORK


There is a wide array of prescription treatments for demodectic dog mange. Not every option will work for every dog, so be prepared to change course if your vet recommends it.


Sold under the brand name Mitaban®, this chemical was used for many years as a whole-body topical treatment for dogs with demodicosis. In addition to having a horrible odor, contact with Mitaban can make dogs and humans sick. 

With less toxic, more effective options available, not many veterinarians recommend amitraz to treat demodectic mange these days. 


Ivermectin is a chemical derived from a bacterial metabolite. It’s used at low doses in monthly heartworm preventives like Heartgard®. When used to treat Demodex, it’s given orally at a higher dosage every day for several weeks. 

Most dogs tolerate the treatment with no trouble but some may be extra sensitive to ivermectin. Side effects include seizures, weakness, and nervous system abnormalities. 

Some Collie-type dogs can’t take the high doses of ivermectin needed to treat Demodex without becoming very ill. Vets may choose a different treatment for dogs of this type. 


Milbemycin oxime is a drug similar to ivermectin. It’s the active ingredient in the monthly heartworm preventive Interceptor®. 

It can be used to kill Demodex mites but requires high doses given daily for a period of weeks. Milbemycin can cause similar neurotoxicity symptoms to ivermectin when used at high dosages.


Isoxazoline is a chemical compound that affects the nervous system of fleas and ticks. The compound has little effect on mammals. Flea and tick control products that contain isoxazoline compounds include Bravecto®, NexGard®, Simparica® and Credelio®.

Vets discovered that these products can also be used to treat demodectic mange in dogs. Multiple studies have shown isoxazoline is effective against Demodex infections while causing very few side effects.

Isoxazolines are effective against Demodex at the same dosage used against fleas and ticks. Most treated dogs are in remission from demodectic mange within one to two months.

FDA has alerted consumers that a few dogs do rarely experience neurological side effects including ataxia (wobbly gait), muscle tremors and seizures while taking these products. Care should be used when treating dogs with a history of seizures as they may be at greater risk for these side effects.


Can I prevent my dog from getting demodectic mange?

Since the tendency to get demodectic mange dermatitis is hereditary, don’t breed dogs showing signs of this disease. You can help dogs with a known history of mange by managing their stress levels and keeping them in good overall health.

Spay/Neuter Surgery

Any physical stress can cause a Demodex flare-up. Estrus (heat cycle) is a stressor in adolescent and adult female dogs. Spay and neuter surgeries can also aggravate skin lesions but prevent future stress from estrus, mating and pregnancy.


The stress of vaccination doesn’t usually cause worsening of demodectic mange. And the risk of your pup getting parvo or distemper is more of a concern than them having skin lesions.  

Boarding and Grooming

Staying in a kennel or grooming shop can be very stressful. Try to avoid or minimize events like this while your dog has active lesions. 


Mange is a skin condition in dogs caused by parasites, the most common type being Demodex mites. Demodectic mange is not contagious but can occasionally lead to serious skin infections if left untreated. 

Mild, early stage mange can be treated using topical treatments, good nutrition, and immune system support. For dogs with more severe lesions, modern flea and tick preventives like Bravecto® often have a dog in remission within a month or two. 

Fad cures like yogurt or olive oil do not treat mange in dogs. A good diet with high-quality puppy food, fish oil and probiotic supplements are safe and may help your pup beat mange faster. Consult with a veterinarian to make a diagnosis and ensure proper treatment.

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Photo credits CC BY 2.0:  Megan Ann and Anneheathen

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  1. Ferrer, L., Ravera, I., & Silbermayr, K. (2014). Immunology and pathogenesis of canine demodicosis. Veterinary Dermatology, 25(5), 427-e65.
  2. Mueller, R. S. (2012). An update on the therapy of canine demodicosis. Compendium (Yardley, PA), 34(4), E1-4.
  3. Six, R. H., Becskei, C., Mazaleski, M. M., Fourie, J. J., Mahabir, S. P., Myers, M. R., & Slootmans, N. (2016). Efficacy of sarolaner, a novel oral isoxazoline, against two common mite infestations in dogs: Demodex spp. and Otodectes cynotis. Veterinary Parasitology, 222, 62-66.
  4. Zhou, X., Hohman, A., & Hsu, W. H. (2020). Review of extra label use of isoxazolines for treatment of demodicosis in dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 256(12), 1342-1346.