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Symptoms and Prevention of Chiggers in Dogs

Chiggers in dogs

Chiggers, scientific name Trombiculamites, are also called harvest mites, itch mites, scrub mites, and red bugs due to their red to bright orange color. While they don’t actually penetrate or burrow into the skin, chiggers bite to feed on skin cells which can lead to severe itching and discomfort. Continue reading to learn more about how chiggers affect dogs, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

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How do dogs get chiggers?

Exposure to this tiny pest, which is often not visualized on the skin, happens most frequently in dogs that have been walking or playing in tall grass, thick vegetation, or wooded areas.

Infestation occurs when a dog encounters larvae that hatch from eggs laid in the grass or on moist soil. While chiggers can be found year-round, they are seen more often in the summer and fall seasons and are more predominant in the southeastern part of the United States. Chiggers do not jump from dogs to people.

Symptoms of Chiggers on Dogs

  • Raised red bumps
  • Rashes – usually in areas that have come on contact with the ground (feet, stomach, nose, ears, head)
  • Broken skin – lesions from scratching, which can lead to secondary infection
  • Orange crusting on the skin
  • Erythema – red patches on the skin
  • Alopecia – loss of hair

How can I tell if my dog has chiggers?

Diagnosis of this condition in your dog can require a trip to the vet. The veterinarian will take a complete history that can include diet, recent travel or activity, grooming habits, possible contact with allergens, and any past skin problems.

Generally, you can expect your vet to perform a physical including a thorough exam of the skin to look for any of the previously mentioned symptoms. They may perform a scraping of the skin to look for mites and possible additional diagnostics to rule out other causes for the itching. Chiggers will not live for a long time on a dog, but they can cause severe itching and discomfort while they are present.

Treating Your Dog for Chiggers

A dog’s body is well protected by fur, but chiggers can attach to areas that have less hair such as the stomach and the head, particularly around the eyes and ears. These areas can be wiped with a soft cloth to reduce the load of the parasite. Several home remedies can be used to ease your pet’s discomfort, but they are not always effective. Before trying them, it is a good idea to consult with your vet.

Your vet can prescribe one of several medications to treat chiggers. Many of them are monthly preventives that treat fleas and ticks. They can also prevent and treat chiggers. These include products like Frontline, Revolution, and Seresto. In severe cases, your vet may prescribe a steroid to reduce inflammation or antibiotics if there is a secondary infection present.

After consulting with your vet, the following home remedies can be used to make your pet more comfortable:

  • Oatmeal Bath

Colloidal oatmeal is soothing to the skin and has anti-inflammatory properties. A cup of ground oatmeal can be added to warm bath water to soak the affected areas.

  • Epsom Salts

Bathing a dog in a warm bath containing enough Epsom salts to make the water cloudy (one to two cups) and a small amount of dish or hand soap can also provide some relief.

  • Ice pack

A wrapped ice pack, applied for no more than 10 minutes, can numb the affected area, reducing the itching and discomfort.

  • Green tea

Brewing several bags of green tea then adding cold water and applying it to the affected areas can also reduce itching.

It is important to treat the environment as well. Washing any bedding, rugs, dog coats, etc, in hot water will help to remove any mites.

Read more:

Common Skin Diseases in Dogs

Common Skin Parasites in Dogs

Ditch the Itch: Skin Allergies in Dogs

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