What are they?
Chiggers are horrible little mites that are commonly found on meadows, golf courses, woodlands, parks and in grassland around lakes and rivers, that bite both humans and their pets.
Where do they live?
They thrive in wet, warm conditions, laying their eggs in soil and around grassy areas. The risk of infestations is highest in spring and summer when your dog may enjoy nothing more than a roll around in the long, dewy grass.
What are they called?
Chiggers are members if the Trombiculidae family and are tiny mite like spiders. They are also known as berry bugs, red bugs or harvest mites.
How to spot them?
They are orange/red and super small – about the size of the head of a pin making them tricky to spot with the naked eye. You may only be aware that your pet has an infestation when the intense itching starts.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of chigger bites include this intense itching, and flat or raised red bumps on the skin that sometimes appear blistered.
Chigger bites will usually be concentrated around the belly, groin and inside of the ears of your pets. So breeds such as Shar Peis with their wrinkly skin are particularly susceptible to being attacked by chiggers.
Chiggers most commonly bite areas of thinned skin such as wrinkles and warm folds of skin such as the crotch and groin areas, armpits, elbows and behind the knees.
The ankles and calves are also common sites for chigger bites.
How it bites?
When the chigger bites, it inserts its feeding structures and mouth parts into the skin. They inject enzymes into the host skin that destroy the tissue around the bite and it is these that frequently provoke reactions. The area around the bite then hardens, and they insert a feeding tube, called a sylostome, further into the bite area. They can feed on the skin through this structure for a few days if they are not disturbed.
The need for treatment
Chiggers cause extreme itching and when your dog scratches these itchy bites the damaged skin can easily become infected. These common treatments below should help you ease the situation.
Soothing home remedies
Bathing your dog in a warm bath containing 2 cups of Epsom Salts to soothe and a tiny bit of washing up liquid to help remove the chiggers, can give your pet relief.
Be extremely careful not to get any of this liquid in your pet’s eyes, mouth or nose.
You may wish to consult your vet before doing this in case your dog has any particular sensitivity to any of the ingredients in Epsom salts or washing up liquid.
A wrapped ice pack can be a cheap and effective way of soothing the intense itch caused by chiggers on dogs. The cold numbs the area, soothing the skin and reducing itching and irritation for your dog.
Apply for 10 minutes, remove and massage the area, before re-applying.
Colloidal Oat Bath
Colloidal oatmeal is a soothing agent with protective anti-inflammatory agents. Simply add a cup of ground oatmeal to your dog’s bath water, stir and soak your pet to help ease the itch.
One of the easiest ways to add this to a bath is to put some porridge oats in a sock, hold the sock over the tap and run the bath through the oat filled sock. This will keep the oaty granules within the sock whilst enabling the soothing oatmeal to mix with the water.
Green tea also contains anti-inflammatory elements that can soothe the itch and wash away the chiggers. Brew several bags of green tea depending on the size of your dog, add cold water, and then thoroughly rinse your dog with it.
Applying calamine lotion or aloe can also be soothing. Antihistamines and topical anti bite and sting relief creams. My children also love the click-it itch relief clickers and swear they work brilliantly.
The trick of using an oat filled sock to fill the bath is also great for humans.
Wash your clothes and any towels or pet blankets that have been in contact with the floor in hot water to remove any mites.
Essential oils citronella and rosemary can act as natural deterrents. Traditional insect repellent can also work.
Chiggers tend to favour the same breeding sites year after year. Once you are aware somewhere is full of chiggers – stay well clear!
To read our article to help you identify common bites and stings click here
To read our article to help your pet deal with ticks and avoid lyme disease click here
Written by Emma Hammett.
First Aid for Pets provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. It is strongly advised that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course or take our online course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.
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