Roscoe’s Last Stand

Last week a client called with an issue regarding her eight-month-old pit bull.  She and her boyfriend had just gotten the dog in January.  They had several other pit bulls, and one of the female pits had a new litter, and the woman herself had just had a baby.  She said that she should have brought the dog sooner but didn’t have the money until that day.

Her concern about the dog was that he had been bitten by fire ants, and she was worried that the dog would not survive.  He had been bitten about five days prior to her calling the vet’s office, or at least, it was five days ago when someone noticed the dog needed medical care.

When the dog arrived at the office, he was in sad shape.  He had not been bitten by fire ants, or, perhaps more correctly, if he had been bitten by fire ants, you couldn’t tell it.  His skin was raw from demodectic mange.


Demodex is a treatable condition that is caused by mites that live in the skin. You can learn more about demodectic mange, sometimes referred to as “red mange”, by clicking on this link.  There’s another type of mange called sarcoptic mange which is contagious.  Demodex is not contagious, but the tendency to develop demodex could be inherited.  If you have a dog that you want to breed, like a pit bull, you should not breed the dog if he develops demodex.  Small issue for some backyard breeders, but many breeders don’t plan on holding onto puppies, so they might sell them at a reduced rate.  Like Roscoe.  The new owner said that they drove to Tennessee to get him, which was no easy drive at about seven hours, and that he was on sale for $500 instead of the usual $2000 that a pit with his rare coloring could command.  It was impossible by the time I met Roscoe to tell what color he really was.


The vet told the woman that this condition had been going on for a long time.  She seemed confused about that, like perhaps she had lost track of time.  She also seemed shocked that the condition wasn’t caused by fire ants, because she knew that the dog had gotten into fire ants.

We talked about what to do about the dog.  With a severe case of demodex, it could take up to six months for the cure to work.  It involves giving the dog a minute dose of ivermectin every day, in some cases twice per day, and usually antibiotic is prescribed for the infected skin.  The woman was pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to follow the regimen.  She didn’t seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she did seem to understand that this dog was owed more than he was getting.  She was considering euthanasia, and I asked if she would consider giving him up if a rescue group would take him.  She agreed that she would.  I made a phone call, but the answer was what I already knew it would be:  the group was full, there were no spots available, and no foster families to be had, not even for a sweet young pit bull.

If you have a squeamish stomach, you might not want to look at the following pictures.  It’s not too graphic, but then I see this kind of stuff fairly often, so what is not so graphic to me might just be paralyzing to you. 

Poor sweet Roscoe ate cookies out of my hand, then walked over to me and rested his head on my arm. His poor, bloody neck leaked bloody pus on my hand.

I lifted his chin to photograph his neck.

His right side matched this view of his left side.

It occurred to me that, even with a good foster situation and medical care, at the end of the treatment, you’d still have a pit bull that needed a home. 

Good night, sweet Roscoe.


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6 Responses to “Roscoe’s Last Stand”

  1. leo Says:

    There are people in this world who should never be allowed to “own” (be responsible for the care of) an animal. Even worse than that, if it can be worse, is they often have children.


  2. Sharon Says:

    Leo is absolutely correct. Of course I cried when looking, but I was glad he is now at peace, at least there is that.
    Yes, Leo, it is worse that they have children, what kind of early life will be their foundation for adulthood?
    Thank you for educating me, Ruth


    • ruthrawls Says:

      Sugar has a dog named Rosie. A few years ago, I was chatting with him outside his house, and this hairless, homeless dog came running up the driveway, all breathless, as if to say, “I got here as quickly as I could”. Worse case of demodex I’d ever seen, until Roscoe. Sugar, of course, took her in, and treated Rosie, and today she has the most gorgeous coat.


  3. Rayya Says:

    What a painful experience that we endure day in, day out at work. A preventative disease or one that could have been managed and tackled so early on. I am so sad at the outcome. Poor Roscoe was unfortunate to be owned by his clueless owner. 😦


    • ruthrawls Says:

      I suppose it could have been worse. She got him from a breeder who might have disposed of him in a different manner. Still, sad.


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