Anything known as "walking dandruff" can't be a good thing. Though it's not dangerous, cheyletiellosis is an irritating skin condition brought to your pet from Cheyletiella mites. These parasites are happy to spread themselves around, jumping from pet to pet and even to you. Fortunately, Cheyletiella mites are more annoying than harmful.
It's a Mouthful
Hard to spell and hard to pronounce but easy to contract, cheyletiellosis is a very contagious skin parasite. It's a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be shared among humans and animals -- in this case dogs, cats and rabbits. The culprit, the Cheyletiella mite, a parasite, lives on the outer layer or keratin layer of your pup's skin. This creepy crawly moves around at will, pushing up skin scales, leaving a trail of skin bits and pieces on your dog's fur. The crawling mites and the skin debris they leave behind inspired the nickname "walking dandruff."
It's easy for a dog to get these free-riders, particularly if he's in regular contact with other animals. Animal shelters, groomers, boarding kennels and breeders are vectors for spreading this parasite around. The mites can live several days without a host, and eggs are shed into the environment, so it's possible to catch the mites from the surrounding environment. As well, if bedding or living quarters of an infected dog aren't decontaminated properly, it's easy for re-infestation to occur.
Signs of the Mite
These parasites tend to be found along your dog's back, but they won't stop there. Telltale signs are skin flakes or dandruff over your dog's neck and back. Some dogs experience itchiness, resulting in excessive scratching. Others show some hair loss, lesions on the back and skin irritation or redness. Your vet will take skin scrapings and samples of the debris on your pup's skin for examination. A stool sample can often confirm diagnosis as well, as the mites are easily ingested during the self-grooming process.
Clean It All and Get 'Em Out
If one of your dogs has cheyletiellosis, all the pets in the house must be treated. The vet will prescribe the appropriate medication, including medicated shampoo and topical treatments. If your pooch has a long coat, he'll have to have it clipped. Since the mites don't necessarily need your pup to keep on keeping on, his living area -- including bedding, kennel, rugs, favorite furniture and grooming equipment -- must be thoroughly cleaned. If the mites find their way onto you, they won't stay long because you're not the host they're looking for. When you've eradicated all traces of him from your pets and their environment, they'll eventually leave you alone.