Demodectic Mange - Dipping

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If you and your vet have discussed "dipping" and you decide its benefits outweigh the potential risks, you probably know it is possible to have it done at the vet. I prefer to do it myself. My whole purpose for writing this is to give folks a step-by-step guide so they feel comfortable that they could do it themselves at home - thereby controlling the entire situation, stressing the animal far less and having the peace of mind that you'll get in knowing you did everything possible for this to be as easy on Poochie as is possible.

There are a couple of different types of "dip" to use on a dog with Demodex. The older remedy is a sulphur. I'm really not familiar with that product enough to say anything about it. I've used the other kind of "dip," generic name "amitraz" (brand name -- "Mitaban").

I know it's rugged stuff! But, I'm not going to say one bad thing about amitraz dip! It does kill the mites!!! And it gives the animal time to build its immune system back up!!!
It's a 'given' that dipping is "messy" and potentially dangerous if done carelessly: -
  • Amitraz will take the color out of ANYTHING. Towels, your clothes, the furniture, etc. It will also melt plastic, so don't leave it setting in a plastic cup waiting to add it to the water!! Gee, can you guess how I found all this out???
  • If your dog tries to lick himself dry after the dip, he may ingest too much amitraz and suffer an adverse reaction. That's not to say that a dog that doesn't lick at all won't have an adverse reaction. That's going to be up to the individual animal and how badly affected the skin was.

    What's a "bad reaction" look like? My favorite reference book: THE PILL BOOK GUIDE TO MEDICATION FOR YOUR DOG AND CAT (Dell Reference Book) lists adverse reactions to amitraz as "depression, severely lowered body temperature, loss of coordination, and depressed heart rate", as well as "increased blood glucose levels. They also talk about severe toxicity for animals that have "ingested" the amitraz tick collars (which would be similar to ingesting the dip!!!)

    Back when I first got Muffin, the first couple of times I dipped him when the skin was SO open and sore, he did throw up a couple of times and he had diarreha once in bed (I think he was sleeping so hard he didn't wake up quick enough to get out, but he was awake enough to move afterward). But I hasten to add, that was BEFORE I knew how absolutely totally critical it was to not let him slurp AT AL! In fact, that's what led me to that conclusion. (That and reading the package insert!!!)

  • It's not just the dog's health that is germane here. If YOU have diabetes, or are taking MAOI's, including drugs prescribed for depression, Parkinson's disease, migraines should be ultra cautious about using the Mitaban themselves!!! If any of those apply to you, please be careful!!
If you're concerned or alarmed about your dog's health after you've dipped him, then take him to the vet right now! There is an antidote for this stuff and the vet can administer it. That's the reason I'd never advise dipping when you can't get them TO a vet in haste. Also, I never do it in the evening because I don't want to go to sleep and not be able to WATCH him.
Most vets will say you need to dip them til the skin scrapings are 'negative' and then dip them twice more. This is a schedule you need to discuss with your own vet. But don't think this is just a "one time" thing. It isn't. As with any medicine, talk to your own vet and read the package insert.
I don't have a basement (we're in Florida, folks!!!) and Muffin's way too big for the kitchen sink. This is most DEFINITELY not an 'outside' activity (you do NOT want to run cold water on them). By process of elimination, I use the bathtub with a hose sprayer attachment.

Before you start think about where you'll have the dog lie AFTER. We use Muffin's bed, but we line it with an old-but-clean white sheet and a couple of old towels. But the advantage is that we can move it from room to room so we can have mobility and still watch him. Constant monitoring is important - you need to keep them from licking and watch for any sign of adverse reaction/sickness.

Make sure there IS plenty of ventilation wherever you're going to do this. Both of you need fresh air to breathe.

  • I use a heavy 'rubber-type' dishpan to put into the bathtub to hold the dip and the dog.
  • To measure, I actually use a syringe with the needle removed. It's marked in the right increments for measuring this and gets down into the bottle. When done, take the plunger out, wash and leave the pieces separate so they don't stick, and you can reuse almost infinitely.
  • I sponge on the 'dip' with a plain old cellulose sponge. Choose something that will fit in your hand and that you can wring out single handedly - An old cotton washcloth is also just fine.
  • Also, you will most definitely need rubber gloves. This stuff is designed to penetrate the skin - THEIRS, hopefully! NOT yours!
  • Towels - one to wrap around him in the tub and then, we have at least three towels ready next to his bed to cover him with. More on that later.
  • You'll also probably need a blanket to cover Poochie with. It's a side effect of the stuff. They get cold!! I don't care if it's the hottest day of summer!!!

Before I start, I get everyting measured out and ready. My vet says 4 - 5 cups of warm water to 1/4 of that small [10.6 ml] bottle of Mitaban (or about 2.6 ml). This is the same "proportion" as the package directs, but because of the method he's taught me, it uses less "stuff" but it probably takes longer to do.

Step #1 - a bath in a benzoyl peroxide shampoo
Benzoyl peroxide shampoo (which is usually prescription and not just a walk-in pet store type of item) literally opens the pores and 'flushes' them out. Remember the pustules in demodex are caused by debris and mites that clog the pores and cause a staph infection. Additionally, the mites just plain reside IN the pores/follicles.

I think this shampoo is really important. If your vet hasn't suggested this, call and ASK. In fact, we use the benzoyl peroxide shampoo for between dips. It helps!


Muffin would urge me to remind all of you that "b-a-t-h" is a four-letter word!! Even though it's not his favorite pastime, this begins with a long, leisurely warm bath with the benzoyl peroxide shampoo sudsing him slowly and thoroughly all over, paying particular attention to places that are red or have pustules, but neglecting NOTHING. The bit you don't treat well enough is the very next place it will break out! Give the shampoo time to do its thing.

Don't dry him - swing right into the 'dip'. Opening the pores lets them be VERY easily chilled - so take special care to avoid drafts. We're in Florida - I've seen Muffin chilled and trembling in July and August! 'Nuf said?

Step #2 - the dipping itself
After you've prepared the skin with the shampoo, the amitraz can get into the pores and "do its thing."

By the way, the description "dipping" is a total misnomer. You don't "dip the dog" IN anything. I think the idea was to dip a cup in the solution and pour it over the dog maybe? That is NOT what I do. I've decided pouring cupfuls over them increases the likelihood that they'll ingest it.

Because of the toxic nature of this stuff, and because it's just kinda nasty to handle, please take advantage of some of the things I've discovered THE HARD WAY.

For example, in a normal bath, splashing is expected. You do NOT want this to splash - not in your eyes, nor the dogs! Also, since the bath is designed TO open the pores, Making a wet dog wait for you to gather the rest of the stuff together won't work.


I'm suddenly reminded of Roger Rabbit and his lovely wife Jessica screaming

"It's D-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-p-p-p!!!"

Position the dishpan in front of the dog, add the amitraz you have measured and the warm (just pleasantly warm) water. Then stand the dog IN the dishpan (at least front or back feet). One hand on the animal to hold him still, the other filling the sponge with liquid and rubbing it all over the skin repeatedly til it's "gone" (i.e., most of it down the drain). Be thorough and slow. Gently massage with the sponge to make sure this gets all the way to the skin. Do the entire dog - NOT just what's sore looking.

The whole purpose is to kill the mites on the skin and in the pores. Remember, you have opened the pores with the shampoo, so this is going right INTO the skin. That's a good thing, but he may start to show the effects of this quite quickly. Part of the reason to have him "stand" in it is so it is absorbed thru the feet (and additionally, it's usually the feet that are one of the most sore places). I often make Muffin "switch ends" half-way thru and turn around, so I can get his other side and the other two paws get a good soaking.

DON'T LET HIM LICK. This is absolutely paramount!!! You don't want him to ingest ANY of this orally if you can possibly help it. Particularly when you sponge around the face, be thorough, but don't run it into the eyes or make the muzzle so "wet" feeling that he feels like he has to lick it off.

The face, however, is often a primary target of the mite, so be kind of painstaking around the eyes, top of the head, under the chin, under the ears. Muffin's an English Cocker, so we do the inside and outside of the ear flaps. Each dog has its own sensitive spots, but it will go all over them and whatever you 'miss' today will be the next place it breaks out. On Muffin, I have to be super thorough in any "creases," the knees, base of the tail (it was docked! WHAT tail!! but yeah, it's a bad spot anyway!!), between the toes, top of the back. Wherever the hair is thickest!!

It's going to feel like forever. (To you AND the dog.) But eventually you'll have no dip left. Don't encourage him to shake. Take him right to the bed you've prepared.

Don't towel him off. Just lie him down and put a towel UNDER his chin and wrap it around like a big bib. On top of that I put another towel over the top of him the opposite way. Then, usually I add a blanket to this mummified Muffin dog!!!

WHY?? Their first instinct is to lick. You gotta prevent this. The main purpose for the "mummy" routine is to keep that nose/mouth away from anything they can lick. Muffin looks at me like "Mom!! What DID you do with my feets??" It's in their nature to try and dry themselves by licking it off. But a few good slurps will upset their stomach!!!

I can't stress enough how cold they may feel. I think partly it's the drug, partly it's because the pores have been so opened up and then they've been wet such a long time (what started as warm dip got cold a long time ago!) I even cover the top of Muffin's head when he trembles (remember, I told you THREE towels by the bed? That's what the extra one is for! And you just thought I mis-counted, didn't you!)

Normally a bath will make a dog rambunctious -- but this stuff will actually put them to sleep. That's a good thing tho. I keep near him and sort of watch him for hours (like so I can see him from the kitchen or where-ever I am). Muffin will sleep for anywhere from 2 to 6 hours.

WHY am I nagging about being so vigilant?? Because I think the best way to prevent a bad reaction is to prevent them from ingesting this stuff by licking (does this sound like a broken record yet???)

This is the process *I* use. It's at least giving you some pointers on how to minimize problems. I remember the first time I 'dipped' Muffin, I felt like I was going whitewater rafting without a life preserver. It was scarey and nobody told me "much" - so if nothing more, I hope this helps someone.

As I've said before, I'd love to hear from you.


What Is Mange?
What Does It Look Like?
Why are Young Dogs Particularly Affected?
Demodex in Older Dogs
Why Can It Pop Out All of a Sudden?
Stressors - Physical, Emotional, Breed-Specific
Will He Outgrow It?
This Sounds Like a Lot of Hassle - Can't I Just Wait and See?
"Right Now" Treatment
Pro-active Treatment
How To Give Pills
Cautions on Treatment


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