Cheyletiella - the Third Type of Mange Mite

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Dog got dandruff? Does she itch too? It might be more than just dry skin.

Demodectic and Sarcoptic mange are the most common type of mange. But then there's Cheyletiellosis — a medical condition caused by an infestation of Cheyletiella mites.

Cheyletiella live on the skin, causing irritation, dandruff, and itchiness. When it invades an animal it can be considered a type of mange. Cheyletiellosis but sometimes called "walking dandruff" because if visible to the naked eye, the pale mites' movement among the skin flakes tends to make it look like the dandruff is on the move. They are most typically found on cats, dogs and rabbits with each attracting a different species of Cheyletiella.

Cheyletiella mites are a lot like Sarcoptic mites in many ways. They are highly contagious and can easily be spread. They are a zoonotic parasite which means you can catch them too and develop an itchy rash. If you get them the infestation is considered to be self-limiting since Cheyletiella don't reproduce on humans and symptoms should resolve once mites are cleared from the household and pets.

The mites are often picked up from direct contact with another infested animal. However, Cheyletiella mites and eggs can survive for a short time (days to weeks) in the environment so infestations can also be picked up indirectly.

Cheyletiella mites are non-burrowing and feed on the keratin layer of the epidermis. Though Cheyletiella generally live on the skin, there have been cases where they enter the nostrils and hang out in the nasal passages, too. Once exposure occurs, it can take three to five weeks for the infestation to develop. The female mite is able to live off the host in the environment for 10 days.

Signs and Symptoms of Cheyletiella
The symptoms of Cheyletiella vary between animals (some have no symptoms at all) and occur primarily on the back, and may include:

  • Flaky skin (dandruff)
  • Scratching (itchiness)
  • Reddened skin
  • Small bumps on the skin
  • Scabs on the skin
  • Mild hair loss
  • Skin irritation
  • Thickening of the skin. 
  • If the mites go into the nose, sneezing and scratching at the face may also be present

Conventional Treatment
Standard veterinary treatment for Cheyletiella typically involves the same systemic chemical insecticides as Sarcoptic and Demodectic mites. Treatment usually runs 8–10 weeks. Just be aware of the risks and limitations of chemical treatments. Read this and this if you want to learn more. 

Natural Treatment
Cheyletiella also responds very well to Mite Avenge Topical Mange Solution. Even though it was developed for a similar type of mite, Mite Avenge has proven to be effective on Cheyletiella and it carries none of the risks associated with chemical treatments. Because Cheyletiella are surface parasites, they are the easiest kill for Mite Avenge. One Mite Avenge treatment a week for 4 weeks will break the 21-28 day life cycle of a colony. However, most dogs generally feel significantly better after the first treatment

Killing them naturally is easy but caution is required to avoid reinfestation. Because both mites and eggs can survive off of a host for 10 days or more, the environment must be thoroughly purged of eggs and mites with thorough cleanings or the mites can be picked up again. All bedding should be washed in hot soapy water. Carpets and upholstery should be vacuumed and if possible washed. The house should be treated with Diatomaceous Earth or sprayed with a residual insecticide suitable for killing adult fleas. All other parts of the environment (floors, bedding, toys, etc.) must be cleaned or treated as well. Surface treatment and cleaning should be repeated every week during the treatment period. You can learn about the treatment process here.