I noticed recently that my dog was scratching a lot. On examination for the cause of the itchiness, I found what looked like paprika. Yet my pantry has no broken spice bottles. I found she had some redness between her toes as well. After some research, I realized my poor dog has chiggers. Do chiggers bite dogs? Is this what is causing my poor pooch’s discomfort? Yes, chiggers bite dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, rodents, and us, although not in the same way as ticks or fleas do.
What Are Chiggers?
Scientifically, chiggers are referred to as Tromcbiculamites but are called harvest mites, red bugs, orange-tawneys, or scrub mites. These parasites are minuscule, roughly the size of a pinhead, and range from red-orange to yellow in color. This is why they look like specks of paprika.
Generally, they can be easily overlooked because of their size and may need to be examined under a microscope. It makes sense why some folks have nicknamed them No-See-Ums. Signs indicating their presence are itchiness, rashes, hives, welts, scabs and even hair loss. Secondary infections could occur if your dog scratches excessively breaking the skin.
How Do Chiggers Feed? Do Chiggers Bite Dogs?
Firstly, there is a common misconception about chiggers in that they burrow under the skin to feed. This is not true and they do not bite and suck blood like the vampiric tick or flea either. What actually happens, when in its larvae stage, the chigger will attach itself to its warm-blooded host.
It secretes enzymes through its saliva that causes the skin tissue to liquefy. This forms a stylostome which is a hardened tube and what we know as a chigger’s bite.
The chigger is then able to feed through the stylostome for several days before dropping off once it is saited where it matures further until eggs can be laid in the environment. This makes them different to fleas and ticks again as they don’t spend their full adult life on the host. In addition, the stylosostome stays in place once the chigger has left and this causes the prolonged itchiness.
Where Do You Find Chiggers?
This particular question has two answers:
Location of Chiggers in the Environment
Chiggers are naturally found in wooded, shady and grassy areas where vegetation is dense. Chalky soil is favored too. They are prevalent during the warm months of spring through to autumn but the peak of their infestation will depend a lot on your area.
Chiggers are naturally found in wooded, shady and grassy areas where vegetation is dense
In some climates, they breed throughout the year. Bear in mind that there are over 10,000 mite species across the globe! If you are venturing into an area where you suspect there will be chiggers, make sure to use repellents such as Picaridin Insect Repellent or Repel 100 for yourself and wear long boots with your pants tucked in so that they can’t get to your ankles.
Although there are repellent sprays available for dogs, it's best to rather keep him/her away from areas that you believe are infested by red bugs. It should be noted that chiggers will congregate in the same area year after year and an infestation could consist of literally thousands of the creepy crawlies.
Should your own backyard be the chigger breeding ground, it is advisable to spray a pesticide/miticide such as Wondercide EcoTreat to kill off the infestation.
Location of Chiggers on Dogs
These parasites will attach themselves to your dog where there is not so much hair. Usually, this is parts of the body that come directly into contact with the ground where the chigger eggs have been laid. This will include the feet especially between the toes, legs, abdomen, groin, belly, head, face and ears.
Luckily, chiggers cannot jump from your dog onto you but if you have been in the same infected area where they latched onto your pooch, you are also at risk of chiggers’ bites.
How to Get Rid of Chiggers
If you suspect your dog has chiggers bathe them immediately or wipe the infected area with pet wipes. This should get rid of some of them but not all. Consider taking your dog to the vet who will prescribe antiparasitic medications like Ivermectin for treating chigger
This will also help rule out any other causes for the symptoms such as allergies. Treatments could include an injection in the worst case scenario.
Alternatively, you could consider some DIY applications should you be 100% certain that chiggers are the malady:
Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Chiggers
My personal favorite is the oatmeal bath/ rub. It works for fleas and ticks too and will be helpful for soothing the itch and inflamed skin from the chigger bite on dogs. In addition, it’s a spa treatment for my pampered pooch as it leaves her coat soft and conditioned. Alternative natural bath remedies include green tea or Epsom salt with a few drops of liquid soap. You can also look into natural treatments using herbal oils that will terminate chiggers.
Topical treatments are designed for external application. Frontline Plus and Bayer K9 Advantix II are broad spectrum treatments for ticks and fleas but it will eliminate the chigger larvae. Others like Performer Brand are made specifically for the ears. If you are using a spray, make sure to pay special attention to the paws.
Dips and Shampoos
Any pyrethin-based dip or shampoo will also work in getting rid of the cumbersome chigger. Make sure to follow instructions as indicated on the label.
Soothing the Itchiness Caused By the Chiggers’ Bite
Getting rid of chiggers is quite easy but their bites will cause your dog discomfort due to the extreme itchiness. Holding ice packs to soothe relieve itching. If you don’t purchase a specifically designed ice pack, make sure to wrap ice in a towel to prevent frostbite. Calamine lotion and anything containing aloe vera will also alleviate irritation.
So do chiggers bite dogs?
If you have personally suffered from a chigger’s bite, you know how relentlessly bad that itch can be. If they can bite you, they most certainly can bite your dog. Although we are not recommending that you and your four-legged friend never leave the house, particularly if you are active, it’s still best practice to stay away from infested areas during chigger breeding season so as not to put your poor dog through that ordeal or yourself for that matter.
Should the paprika be chiggers and not from your spice rack, it may be necessary to use a combination of the remedies.