Although most pet owners are aware of how fleas and ticks can affect their pets and how they can
prevent them, harvest mites are less easily recognised as they are only just big enough to be seen by the naked eye.
Harvest mites live in large groups in long grass and plants and attach to mammals to feed off of their blood (that includes humans!). They are usually a problem around this time of year, from late
summer to early winter and particularly like sunny, dry weather. They tend to live in areas where there is little hair so are commonly found in the ears of our pets, but also like to live on paws, chins and lips, and look like bright orange dots. To confirm a harvest mite infection we can also do a skin scrape and look at the mites under a microscope to identify them.
Signs of a harvest mite infestation include irritation, inflammation, hair loss and crusting of the skin
and if your pet scratches too much, itching can also cause bacterial infections if the skin is broken.
Some animals will show no clinical signs of an infestation but others can be particularly irritated by
them. Harvest mites will feed at the same site for 2 to 3 days and will grow 3 to 4 times in size. You may notice your dog scratching within 3 to 6 hours of coming into contact with harvest mites but itching can continue for several weeks afterwards.
Unfortunately, harvest mites cannot be prevented with a spot on treatment or tablet unlike fleas and ticks. There is also no licensed treatment for harvest mites however Fipronil spray, which is licensed for treating other types of mites, has been used effectively to treat harvest mites. Some animals are particularly sensitive to harvest mites and may need anti-inflammatories or antihistamines, and if scratching causes an infection your pet may also need a course of antibiotics. Harvest mites are mainly active in the middle of the day so letting your animals out and walking them in the morning and evening can help avoid them, as well as steering clear of long grass or woodland areas.
For any advice about any kind of parasite treatment or prevention please feel welcome to call any of our practices.