White Dog rolled her eyes and gasped, "REALLY? You showed Dr. Julia your belly, momma?" As most know Dr. Julia is our respected and loved vet. We were in her office with Puff who had seemingly overnight developed a crusty rash that flaked like dead skin.
At 15 years old we take changes to Puff's body seriously. And this was even more concerning after an oatmeal bath and ointment did not seem to have any effect. I called and even though the office was booked solid, room was made to see my girl.
I had two simple questions: was this contagious and what was the cause/treatment?
We were taken right into an exam room and Dr. Julia took a peek. "It is not dry skin," she said immediately. ""I want a skin scraping done," she directed the tech. She started to follow the tech but turned back to ask, "And the others?" "Only Puff has this flakiness, but everyone except Oso is scratching like crazy!" She nodded and went through the swinging dor only to poke her head back in. "And the humans?" Steve said "we are kind of itchy; Sue has some kind of allergy rash." "Really?" she asked looking at me. "Yeah, but it looks nothing like Puff's issue." "What DOES it look like?"she responded. I inched up the bottom of my shirt to reveal a patch of tummy skin with the red bumps that have been driving me to distraction." She walked away.
Puff was gone for a while; Steve and I sat in the empty exam room. Cindy, Dr. Julia's Number One, came out of the lab and gave me a wide-eyed look through the window. She pushed open the door but did not come in. "Sorry, I just got a new puppy at the rescue, so I can't take any chances." Now I was worried. "Does that mean we are contagious?" "Oh YES!" and before she could say more one of the techs came and summoned her.
I heard Dr. Julia before we saw her. "Darn! Now I am itchy," she complained, and she and Margaret, the Tech came in carrying Puff. "You sure know how to end my weeks with a bang," she said. "So?" I said using the voice that White Dog learned from me.
"Your Puff, and probably all of the others have what is called Walking Dandruff. It is caused by a mite and is highly contagious. Don't know where they picked it up, it is unusual here, but it could have been anywhere they encountered another dog. It was your rash that tipped me off," she continued pointing at me. "You are a deadend host but as long as the dogs have the disease you keep getting reinfected along areas where you hold the dogs, tummy, arms, thighs. The mites cannot reproduce on humans and they can only live a few days." I felt the urge to scratch. Later I looked it up and found Cheyletiellosis, as the disease is medically diagnosed, is called Walking Dandruff because you can often see the dead flakes of skin moving as they are carried by the nearly invisible mites. YUCK!
She gave us directions as she wrote: "The hard thing is going to be making sure they are gone. Your yard will need to be sprayed with an environmental flea and tick killer, not just repellent. And you will have to pick up some for use indoors. Spray everything, furniture, dog beds, carpet where they lay, your bed. Then vacuum thoroughly after spraying the filter with the insecticide. Wash everything you can in hot water, especially toys and bedding.
"After you do that, bathe all of the White dogs in a pyrethria shampoo. Apply the flea/tick medication down their back and massage it in. Be sure they all take the ivermectin. Brush them out every day and renew the bath every 5 days or so.
"Give your housecleaning until Monday or so then give it a thorough going over once more. Cindy knows a group that does this type of cleaning for rescues who get issues and they are environmentally friendly plus very experienced. I will have her give you their number.
"Your rash will clear up as the dogs get rid of the mites but it won't harm you to use the dog shampoo for immediate relief and an end to the itchiness. I told my sister to do that once," she added with a laugh, "and it worked!"
"In the meantime the White Dog Army is on lockdown for three weeks. Quarantine. No contact with other animals and no other pets over to your house. You cannot infect anyone, but the dogs can and the mites can survive for several hours without a host waiting for some innocent to come by. Any questions?"
Poor Puff was hanging her head. "This is not your fault, Baby Girl," I told her. She looked at me. "The others won't think so,either. In fact I bet they will be VERY grateful to finally know why they are so itchy and to know that the end is in sight." Steve cuddled his girl in his arms. "You are so brave to help us find and solve this problem, if it wasn't for you we would still all think that it was just winter's dryness run amok." He kissed her head.
Our task was cut out for us. First stop was the pet supplies store for shampoos and sprays, then home to the Ranch. Once home we shared the news with the rest of the White Dog Army, who were certainly not happy with either the idea of a bath or the change in routine. "Sweet Ones," I told them, "I share your pain about this and know how upsetting it is. Believe me, this was not in my road map for the weekend, either! Let's just be glad that we can get things back to normal without any lasting damage...and that we all get to be together."