As the weather is milder and the days are longer, your dog walks might be extended, and our cats might be spending more time in the garden. This is perfectly natural, and should be encouraged, but as responsible pet parents, we need to remember the risk of harvest mites…
What are harvest mites?
Harvest mites are tiny orange mites that live in soil, often found in woodland and grassy areas. They’re most common between July and November, and are found all over the UK, from city to country. When we say tiny, we mean it, with harvest mites measuring around a mere 0.2mm long.
How can my pet get harvest mites?
It all starts with mite larvae. When a mite comes into contact with a warm blooded animal, it will congregate on the skin surface, most commonly on the animal’s front legs, between their toes, on their tummy or around their genitals. These mites will then hook onto your pet with fangs, injecting powerful digestive enzymes which work to break down skin cells, and once these cells are broken down, the mites will feed off of the animal’s blood. Mites will get bigger as they gorge, growing to around 3 or 4 times their original size.
How do I know if my pet has harvest mites?
The most common symptom is constant itching and inflamed red skin. Symptoms can appear within 3 hours of your pet suffering an infestation, and can, unfortunately, last for weeks. The itching can cause excessive scratching, and in particularly bad cases, result in fur loss or skin damage that might expose your pet to bacterial infections.
Harvest mites are small, and so very difficult to spot on your pet, however, you may notice a reddish dust on their fur in areas of infestation.
How should I treat harvest mites?
At the moment, there is no licensed treatment to cure harvest mites, but if your pet is suffering from inflamed skin, your vet may be able to prescribe an anti-inflammatory. If you leave them untreated, the larvae will feed for a few days then drop off, however, the itching can continue for weeks, sometimes even months.
How can I prevent harvest mites?
Treating your pet regularly for fleas can reduce the risk of an infestation, and adding a skin-supporting supplement can help manage with the itching they may suffer if they get harvest mites.
Harvest mites are most active during the day, so if you can walk your dog very early or around dusk, this can help minimise the risk. We also recommend you avoid long grass and standing or sitting still for too long in the sun.