Harvest mites

While most of us are familiar with fleas, ear mites and sarcoptic mange mites, we have not all heard of harvest mites. Indeed, these lesser known mites seem to be somewhat less common in the U.K. than their parasite cousins.

Are these mites different to others?

Unlike the mites that cause Sarcoptic and Demodectic mange, these mites are usually visible to the naked eye and generally only affect the feet and legs (though sometimes are also seen on the belly and ears). Typically, there is no need to do a ‘skin scrape’ test to be able to see harvest mites, we can diagnose them from simply looking at a dog’s paws. They don’t burrow under the skin, instead staying on the surface and feeding from there.

These mites are a characteristic bright orange colour and, like other mites, can cause intense itching. You may notice your furry friend licking and chewing their paws incessantly. They may lick so much that their fur becomes stained. In fact, they may lick and chew so much that they break their skin and introduce infections. In this case, the toes can become red, swollen and may even start to discharge pus.

Where did my dog get these mites?

We generally find that dogs pick up harvest mites in the woods or when walking through long grass. There may be ‘hot spots’ where many dogs are getting affected, and these walking routes should be avoided if possible. The most common time of year to see them is the end of summer and early autumn.

It is also possible for dogs to become infected from close contact with other animals who have the mites.

How are Harvest Mites treated?

Thankfully, this type of infection is usually straightforward to treat. Your vet will provide some anti parasite therapy such as a local spray, which may need to be repeated. As well as this, some will need additional medicine such as anti-itch medicine, medicated washes and a course of antibiotics.

Is it true these mites affect humans?

Though humans don’t generally serve as a ‘home’ to harvest mites as we don’t have fur, they can bite us and cause red, itchy bumps. If you think you may be affected, it is best to seek advice from your GP (and do let them know if your dog has had a harvest mite diagnosis).

Be aware, that these mites can also affect cats. So, if your dog has been diagnosed with harvest mites, be sure to check any other furry beasts in your home!