If it seems like your pet is suddenly scratching a lot and flea treatment isn't working, harvest mites may be the cause. Here's what you can do about this itchy problem.
What are harvest mites?
Harvest mites belong to the spider family, and they're tiny insects that attach and feed off warm-bodied animals like cats, dogs and rabbits. The larvae are very small, and will look like tiny red or orange particles.
Where do they live?
Harvest mites group in bushy and dense spots in parks, gardens, urban areas... even indoors. They prefer thick vegetation like long grass and are most active during the day – especially when it’s dry and sunny. Mite season starts in late August and goes on until October.
How can they affect my pets?
If the mites come into contact, they’ll attach their fangs to your pet’s skin (ouch!), inject digestive enzymes to break down skin cells and feed off these. They'll stay put for 2-3 days, gradually growing in size. By day 5, the mites will finally drop off.
Your pet’s skin will feel itchy just a few hours after they've been bitten. Unfortunately, this can continue for weeks, which is why it can get a little uncomfortable!
Check areas where skin is thinnest: ears, toes, front legs, chest and armpits. Some pets can have a stronger reaction, like allergies (with reddened or crusty skin) or, if they scratch a lot, a bacterial infection.
Are there ways to prevent them?
Pets that go outdoors will be at higher risk of infestation. You can prevent this by walking your dog during the cooler hours (like early morning or late afternoon) and keeping active when outside. For example, avoid sitting under the sun for prolonged periods during these months.
What’s the best treatment?
There is no specific treatment available just yet, but products that soothe and repair the skin can help. A visit to the vet is usually recommended, as they’ll be able to prescribe what’s most suitable for your pet.
Oh, and as for humans, there’s no need to worry! Mites can attach to our feet and ankles, but they won't stay there long. You can use insect bite cream for any irritation.