Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosic Mange) in Dogs

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4 min read

Key takeaways

Cheyletiellosic mange, or “walking dandruff,” is an uncommon parasitic infestation of Cheyletiella sp. mites in dogs.

  • These non-burrowing insects live among the hair follicles and are just barely large enough to see with the naked eye
  • Symptoms include characteristic scales of dandruff, visible mites, and some itching
  • Diagnosis of cheyletiellosis is confirmed by identification of Cheyletiella mites in samples of dandruff and hair under a microscope
  • Treatment involves use of antiparasitic medication under veterinary instruction
  • Prognosis with treatment is excellent
  • In rare cases, Cheyletiella causes rashes in humans, but infestation is unlikely and short lived
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A closer look: Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosic Mange) in Dogs

Cheyletiellosis is an uncommon infestation in dogs but it is highly contagious. It is uncomfortable, but does not cause the extreme itching that many other external parasites do. Cheyletiella mites pose no threat to overall lifespan and are easy to identify and treat.

Cheyletiellosis is a mild parasite as it does not burrow into the skin. Severity depends on how long the infestation goes untreated. The affected area of skin starts out small and gradually increases in size as the population grows. From a single mite, a full infestation takes 3 to 5 weeks to develop.

The motion of the mites tends to agitate the upper layer of the skin, causing debris to break loose and move through the hair. This gives cheyletiellosis both its characteristic symptom and its other colorful nickname: “walking dandruff.”

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Risk factors

Dogs who spend time in close quarters with other infested dogs, such as in shelters or at breeders, are susceptible to infestation. Cheyletiella mites may be transmitted directly from one pet to another, or indirectly on objects like bedding.

Possible causes

Cheyletiellosis is an infestation of the Cheyletiella mite. This mite is a non-burrowing species that lives among the hair follicles on the skin, feeding on the keratin layer of the epidermis. The mites are typically found in the thick fur on dogs’ backs.

Main symptoms

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnosis is based on the presence of the characteristic dandruff (especially if it is seen to “walk”) and identification of the mites under a microscope. Mites can be collected in a number of ways, including:

  • Flea combing
  • Hair plucking
  • Tape impression

Steps to Recovery

Many insecticides commonly used for other canine pests are also effective against Cheyletiella mites. Always consult a veterinarian before administering parasite control to pets. Many formulations are toxic, especially to cats. Ensure treating vet staff are aware of all pets and children in the household before choosing external parasite control.

Bedding and other fabrics and surfaces that have been in close contact with an infected dog require washing and disinfection to prevent reinfestation.

A full infestation develops over 3 to 5 weeks. Fully eradicating an infestation usually takes 3-4 weeks.


Prevention is possible with regular use of most common flea-control medications.

Transmission occurs between animals that carry the mites. This includes other household pets such as cats, rabbits, and other dogs. Environments where dogs live together in close contact such as in shelters or in breeding facilities are at higher risk of infestation. In some cases, transmission is possible from an animal with no symptoms of cheyletiellosis (asymptomatic carriers).

Transmission is also possible from contaminated surfaces to animals.

Cheyletiella mites have also been found on fleas, lice, and flies. Contact with these common pests is a possible source of contagion.

Keeping up with routine external parasite control for all household pets is the best line of defense against mange and other forms of skin disease caused by parasites.

Is Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosic Mange) in Dogs common?

Cheyletiellosis is uncommon. Many veterinarian-recommended flea medications are also effective against mites, so cheyletiellosis is extremely rare in dogs who are kept up to date on external parasite control.

Typical Treatment

  • Antiparasitic medication
  • Topical insecticides
  • Environmental management


No Author - Writing for Companion Animal Parasite Council
Tammy Hunter, DVM; Ernest Ward, DVM - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals

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