by Cat Donnelly, Pet Nutritional Consultant
Demodex is not a genetic disease. Demodex mites feed on systemic yeast in the body, and the systemic yeast feed on the dietary yeast and/or sugar in the system (blood sugar). As you will see, my method of dealing with demodex is to starve the mite by taking away it’s food source, which is the yeastie beastie. Without this food source, the demodex will easily die off without dipping or insecticides of any kind.
Demodex mites take advantage of an immature or lowered immune system which is why the very young get it, and sometimes the very old or ill. A dog’s immune system is not fully mature until at least one year, sometimes longer. This is only one reason why it is NOT advisable to breed dogs younger than 18 – 24 months minimum.
Demodex mites are living in just about every dog, deep within the hair follicles. When pups are nursing, the mites migrate from the mom to the pups. This is why the most common areas to show demodex first are on the face, head and front paws, and then they migrate to every other area of the body.
When the immune system is maturing but battling to keep the mites in balance, you can sometimes see hairless patches appearing and disappearing on different parts of the body. It may even progress to the point where the mites colonize and erupt on the surface, making the skin look pimply or rashy.
Don’t bother with Goodwinol ointment because it is worthless, in my experience. You would get better results from dabbing lemon juice or apple cider vinegar on the spots, or spraying with colloidal silver. Apple cider vinegar will keep the odor down from any secondary staph infection. Yeasty ears will commonly be a problem during this battle.
The reason why vets and others say that demodex is genetic is because they are still working with the old information, and even with the knowledge that it is a mite, it is hard to break that habit. Other possibilities are:
1) They must not understand the life of a demodectic mite. Demodex is not in the genetic make-up in any way whatsoever. There is no genetic mutation or genetic marker that causes demodex. The immune system is a living thing that can be raised or suppressed, it is not fixed. The mite is an opportunistic parasite only, and can be eradicated completely.
2) they also must not understand how the body can be helped to fight demodex off on it’s own (through diet and supplementation), without toxins taken internally and applied externally which have long-lasting and detrimental effects.
3) they must not understand the role that diet has on the immune system and therefore the demodectic mite. While demodex was once a rare state of dis-ease, generations of being fed kibble and overzealous vaccination programs wear down the immune system of each successive generation until today you hear about demodectic puppies all the time.
You can take a dam who has produced an entire litter of demodectic pups, put her on a grainless raw diet (a la Kymythy Schultze) with supplementation for a year, breed her again and she will not produce any demodex in the subsequent litter. I know, because I’ve done it. If it were genetic, or in the genes, it would not matter WHAT I fed her, at least a certain percentage of her pups would have it.
So, if a breeder had fed BRAND X dog food and followed the old vaccination protocols for several generations, and her dogs have subclinically (no outward signs) been getting weaker immune systems, then to the naked eye it would logically look like the problem is genetic. This particular dam starts spontaneously producing litter after litter of demodex pups in a line that had previously been clear of it, but it’s manageable so they keep breeding her anyway.
When her pups are bred, they produce all demodex pups, only worse cases. Clearly this must be due to a “bad gene.” This logic is as good as seeing birds fly south in the winter and deducing that ALL birds fly south for the winter. It might initially appear to be true, but further investigation tells you that it is not. Mites are not a part of any gene, so that statement doesn’t even make sense. It’s the immune system that is inherited, not the particular disease.
The problem with their logic is that you can take this line and turn it completely around through upgrading their diet and modifying the vaccination schedule, or eliminating vaccines altogether. Switch to a better kibble. Give healthy snacks like sliced melon or peeled apple slices that have live enzymes instead of biscuits which are a “dead” food. Give good quality supplements.
The best possible scenario, in my opinion, would be to feed grainless BARF (biologically appropriate raw foods). Anyone wanting to pursue that diet should have Kymythy Schultze’s book on the subject. Home cooked is also a very good regimen to raise the health of our companions if it’s a choice between that or any kibble. A book I highly recommend is Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Cats and Dogs.
Okay, so now that we have established that demodex could not possibly be genetic, let me say that it is “congenital” in that a sub-standard immune system is passed on from the mother to the pups, and the mites can migrate to the pups from the mom shortly after birth. After generations of being fed kibbles, which are a “dead” food, the mom will have little immunity to pass on to her pups, and she will harbor plenty of demodectic mites in her pores ready to migrate to the pups that her own immune system is keeping in check. That is the sum total of the relationship between demodectic mites and how it is “inherited” from the mom by her pups.
So, you HAVE demodex and don’t know what to do about it? Can it be treated naturally? YES! In fact, I would highly recommend it. The conventional path is highly toxic (as evidenced if you’ve ever seen a dog after it’s dipped) and can keep your pet’s immune system weakened for life. There is usually absolutely no reason for this, in my experience.
Here is the holistic protocol:
1) Feed an anti-yeast diet (LINK TO ALLERGY/YEAST ARTICLE). Mites feed on the systemic yeast or yeast living in the body, and systemic yeast feed on nutritional yeast and sugars (carbohydrates). If you break the cycle, you weaken or starve the systemic yeast and then the mites cannot colonize in the pores, crowding and pushing out the hairs and migrating to other pores looking for food.
This is the reason for grainless diet (ESPECIALLY NO WHEAT OR NUTRITIONAL YEAST OF ANY KIND) with only meat, bones and low glycemic fruits and veggies (green leafy, not root veggies), or in other words, only foods that do not readily raise your pet’s blood sugar.
Plain kefir is a wonderful anti-yeast food, in moderation. Plain yogurt is a secondary substitute. Acidophilus/lactobacillus (pro-biotics) supplementation is preferred because overall, dairy will feed yeast. No cheese, no cottage cheese. If grains have to be used, make sure they are whole grains and not refined. No sweeteners of any kind, including molasses, honey, etc. Many have reported good results from supplementing with Immune Factor bovine colostrum, which is a pro-biotic that works in the lower digestive tract.
If feeding kibble, I would recommend Flint River Ranch Lamb/millet/rice kibble. This can be ordered by calling (909) 682-5048 and telling them you were referred by distributor AK53 (Cat Donnelly). If you have a hard time getting through, I would be glad to call your order in for you. Your food will come via UPS. Be sure to have me send you the feeding guidelines since you feed so much less than most commercial foods. The cost “as fed” should work out to be very close to most commercial kibbles, even though the cost per pound is more.
2) Make sure the pup gets LOTS of rest! This is crucial. If the pup is in a high traffic area, it is important to put a crate in a quiet room and give him frequent rest periods.
3) Fresh air and sunshine are very therapeutic. Regular exercise and playtime is a must. Think HEALTHY. Do what the dog loves. Channel his energies by training him, teaching him tricks. Oxygenating the blood is an important part of an anti-yeast regimen. Yeast thrive in moist, dark places with little to no oxygen.
4) NO STRESS. If you are in a stressful relationship, make a choice, the partner or the pup must go for the good of the pup. I am dead serious. You may be faced with giving the pup up to a better home for his/her own good if you are not willing to give up the partner. If your pup has a high stress personality, perhaps some Primorye Pet would be in order. Go to oxyfreshww.com and use 180606370 as the referring distributor.
The most stressful part of a female pup’s life is being in heat. If you cannot get this under control quickly, do not put her through the stress of being in heat. The stress of the spay operation is far less than what you will see erupt during the heat cycle, believe me when I tell you that I speak from experience.
5) On top of a good diet, I highly recommend supplementing with anti-oxidants (I carry Oxyfresh Pet Anti-oxidants or K&R’s Super OxyGreen), or you can supplement with separate anti-oxidant vitamins like Vit C and Vit E. It’s usually cheaper to go combo. The recommended daily dosage is Vit C 250 – 1,000 milligrams depending on size, vitamin E 100 IU to 400 IU.
Other supplements to consider are apple cider vinegar in the water (a scant tsp will do, it’s very strong), and vitamin ‘F’ or essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids will help the skin heal quickly and the hair/fur to grow back. I carry an excellent line from K&R Naturals called MaxiDerm.
For demodex, I highly recommend Nupro liver-flavored vitamin/mineral powder which also contains pro-biotics AND essential fatty acids as well. It also contains lecithin with is great for the immune system and healing. The manufacturer makes Nupro specially for us at Alternative Pets without any nutritional yeast. Don’t let the dosage scare you off, you can cut it in half after the first 8 weeks.
Echinacea and Goldenseal can be used internally, and also externally on the affected skin (for secondary staph). It is both an anti-fungal and also aids in healing.
6) Our most powerful anti-yeast tool by far is Yeast & Fungal Detox which is a tincture your give 3x/day in water. It can be given in food if you double the dosage. This ensures that you are not only weakening the yeast, but really eradicating it. Typically the dog will go through a “healing crisis” for a day or two, and then they will be phenomenally better.
The healing crisis may include fever, eye exudate, mucus from the nose, yeast ears (use Ear Wash & Dry), itchy skin eruptions (Aller’G Free, Dermaplex shampoo and Rejuva spray or Rejuva Gel helps), and can even include a little diarrhea. This is the only way the body can eradicate the yeast, and the mites that feed on the yeast. Do not panic, it will get better. Any acute symptoms are rare and should be immediately evaluated by a veterinarian.
7) Zinc is also helpful during this treatment. You can feed ground pumpkin seeds or 10 – 30 milligrams of chelated zinc tablets.
8) Absolutely NO vaccinations until the crisis is over and behind you for quite some time. Tell your veterinarian that you want a health waiver until the pup is clear of demodex for at least 2 months or more. It says on the vaccine vials that they should ONLY be given to healthy animals.
Since demodex is considered life threatening in some cases (usually only because it’s mismanaged with suppressive and toxic therapies), you cannot damage the immune system further with vaccinations at this time. The key is that you need to enforce the immune system, not give it something ELSE to try to deal with. That makes NO sense. If your vet doesn’t agree, find one who will. It is essential. Also, using cortisone on demodectic dogs will almost make treating the disease impossible.
9) Find ways to control parasites naturally. Nature’s Finest Herbal Wormer can be used monthly to keep tapeworm and other parasites under control. It contains ground walnut hull which is what naturalists use to keep heartworm in check. You can also use aromatherapy (Aromaleigh Flea Spritz) to keep fleas and mosquitoes away. You can place beneficial nematodes and plant lemon grasses in the yard. There is a wealth of information out there to keep you away from putting poison in your dog each month (apparently heartworm preventative incidentally is only needed every 6 weeks but they think the general public is too stupid to grasp that and so make it monthly), plus another dab of toxin between the shoulder blades. There are other ways to handle it in my opinion. It might take more work, but the end result is a healthier dog and a healthier you (you don’t need those toxins in your environment either).
10) Dr. Pitcairn recommends the homeopathic Sulphur 6x with daily doses over a period of 4 weeks. At each treatment, place just one pellet or tablet on the tongue or down the throat (without touching it yourself). Do not feed your pet 10 minutes before or after this treatment. When the condition is obviously clearing up, taper off of the treatments by giving the doses further apart. If there isn’t a complete cure in 4 weeks, then you can continue the treatment for as long as it helps for a period of several months (but this is rare).
11) Dr. Pitcairn recommends a five day fast before starting the program if the dog is at a good weight and it’s overall health is good. A fast is something you ease into and ease out of, and he has complete instructions in Chapter 15 of his book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.
More information on yeast eradication is available in the allergy/ yeast article. Contact me directly with any questions. The preceding article is a nutritional recommendation, and should not be a substitute for quality veterinary care.