Harvest Mites and Your Dog
Around this time of year, particularly late Summer and Autumn, harvest mites are at their peak in numbers and producing a high risk of skin problems to domestic animals – particularly dogs. The harvest mite is a small, six-legged insect that feeds on the fluid of animal tissue. It is this, which causes a considerable itching and level of discomfort in our dogs and can lead to very severe infections.
Harvest mites congregate in large numbers upon small areas of grass, bushes and shrubbery and are at their most active during the daytime – particularly when the weather is dry and sunny. When the mites come into contact with a warm blooded animal they begin to swarm onto the body and find areas with less fur and thinner skin; such as the ears. They do not burrow into the animal, but use their small hooked fangs to inject a fluid. Once the fluid is inside the animal its powerful digestive enzymes break down the skin cells and this results in liquefied particles of skin tissues, which the mite then sucks out. They can stay on the body for up to three days, on the very same spot they first latched onto. Your dog will first notice the itching within a few hours and this discomfort can last for several weeks. As a London dog walker I am often asked for advice on this subject, and many ask if this discomfort is only superficial. My usual answer is that the danger with this is that the skin quickly becomes damaged due to excessive scratching and therefore is prone to becoming infected with bacteria.
How can I detect the mites
The mites are difficult to spot with the naked eye and are often likened in appearance to dust; however their striking orange-red colour makes them simpler to detect. You can reduce the risk of a harvest mite infestation by having your dog exercised in the early morning or evening time, which is when the mites are at their least active. It’s also wise to avoid areas that have long grasses or lots of vegetation and to remain active during your walks – the worst infestations happen if a dog is resting or sitting in one spot.
As of yet, there is no licensed treatment on the UK market for harvest mites. However, some flea treatments (such as Frontline) may be effective but this should always be carried out under your vet’s advice. You can also add omega 3 or cod liver oil to your dog’s food, which will help to calm the skin and relieve the itching. Vitamins such as Vitamin E will also help to support the skin’s defence.
As a London based dog walker many of the places we walk such as The Gleblands, Coldfall woods, Queens wood could run the risjk of having Harvest mites so please be vigilant