The present study reports the development of a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect Demodex canis DNA on different tissue samples. The technique amplifies a 166 bp of D. canis chitin synthase gene (AB 080667) and it has been successfully tested on hairs extracted with their roots and on formalin-fixed paraffin embedded skin biopsies. The real-time PCR amplified on the hairs of all 14 dogs with a firm diagnosis of demodicosis and consistently failed to amplify on negative controls. Eleven of 12 skin biopsies with a morphologic diagnosis of canine demodicosis were also positive. Sampling hairs on two skin points (lateral face and interdigital skin), D. canis DNA was detected on nine of 51 healthy dogs (17.6%) a much higher percentage than previously reported with microscopic studies. Furthermore, it is foreseen that if the number of samples were increased, the percentage of positive dogs would probably also grow. Moreover, in four of the six dogs with demodicosis, the samples taken from non-lesioned skin were positive. This finding, if confirmed in further studies, suggests that demodicosis is a generalized phenomenon in canine skin, due to proliferation of local mite populations, even though macroscopic lesions only appear in certain areas. The real-time PCR technique to detect D. canis DNA described in this work is a useful tool to advance our understanding of canine demodicosis. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.