Can I stop my dog from getting mites?

(Q) I have two terriers who suffer with harvest mites every year. The treatments I use seem to be getting less effective. They’re working terriers so they’re always running through fields. Is there an alternative remedy that might help?

(A) Homeopathic vet Holly Mash says: Harvest mites (trombicula autumnalis) occur in grassland and chalkland areas in late summer and autumn, and become active in warm weather. The larvae can cause huge problems to dogs, mainly affecting the areas of the body closest to the ground, and places with thinner skin — commonly the paws, tummy, and groin.

There are a few ways of reducing exposure to harvest mite larvae, one of which is to walk your dogs in the early morning, as the larvae are only active during the day. It’s also been found that harvest mites are very localised, so you might find that one field has masses of them and yet when you walk your dogs in the field next door they’re hardly ever affected. So, try to avoid problem areas when you walk your dogs. It’s also a good idea to avoid long grasses and vegetation. Keep moving, as the worst infestations occur when sitting down or resting. Dorwest’s Pennyroyal Shampoo might help to ward off the mites due to the strong minty aroma.

There is also a mite cream made by Denes which contains essential oils of the herbs cedarwood and sweet flag, known to be soothing to the dog and repellent to mites. To help relieve the itching there are also essential fatty acid supplements such as Yumega or Yumega Plus. These will help to improve your dogs’ coats and might help prevent mite infestation by creating a physical barrier on the skin.

Little horrors!

  • Mites can be subdivided into borrowing and surface mites; both types cause dermatitis which might be itchy, depending on the type of mite present.
  • Burrowing mites seen in domestic pets live in small tunnels within the surface layers of the skin. They lay their eggs in small nests inside these tunnels.
  • Surface mites include otodectes cynotis (small ear mites that live in the ear canal), cheyletiella (animals infected with this fur mite are often said to have ‘walking dandruff’ as the infection leads to the production of excess scale), and trombicula autumnalis.

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