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Chiggers on Dogs: What You Should Know

Dogs have become loved family members, so taking care of their health is essential.

Since dogs love to play outside, they often end up with bites that turn problematic.

Despite having fur coats, dogs often end up with chigger bites and infestations.

When you quickly recognize chiggers on dogs, you can take care of the problem and prevent your beloved pet from suffering any longer.

Identifying Chiggers

Chiggers are mites, and in their juvenile form, are difficult to see. They come in three colors: orange, yellow, and tan.

Chiggers are also known as harvest bugs, harvest lice, red bugs, scrub mites, or mower’s mites.

The tiny bugs like warmth and humidity.

The problem with chiggers is that they are most common in the warm summer months when dogs (and their humans) like to be outside.

To make matters worse, chiggers thrive in warm and humid climates all around the world.

Once chiggers become adults, they lay eggs in the grass and other foliage. As the chiggers hatch, they sit on the grass and wait for a host.

Once a dog, another animal, or a human walks by, the young chiggers hop on, take a bite, and start feeding.

You can quickly identify chigger bites because they bite in groups.

They are born in groups and survive that way until a host arrives to survive on their own.

What to Watch For

Dogs with thick fur coats are less likely to get chigger bites because the fur protects them.

But, chiggers can still bite dogs in their less furry areas like their ears, faces, and necks.

Dogs with thin coats are more likely to be bitten because chiggers can easily land on their skin.

Since chiggers are tiny, you probably won’t see them, even after checking your dog after outdoor play.

What you will notice is your dog scratching repeatedly in one spot.

The scratching might start within 24 hours of playing outside and being infested with the little mites.

Unfortunately, dog parents often mistake chigger bites for another skin problem.

The typical symptom of scratching in one spot can also be attributed to fleas, ticks, dermatitis, or an allergic reaction.

Chigger Bite Indications

Along with a persistent itch, chiggers leave a few other signs.

Your dog will scratch intensely at one spot, so when you look there, you should see red spots. Chiggers bite in a cluster.

So if you see several red bumps in a grouping, then your dog probably has chigger bites.

Because several rashes and other bites show up as red bumps or spots, it is easy to misidentify chigger bites as another problem.

If you see one bump or bite, then your dog does not have chiggers. If the red spots are not bumpy but are more rash-like, then your dog does not have chiggers.

The cluster must be bumpy in texture.

Another indication that your dog has chiggers is the location of the red bumps.

Because chiggers are so small, they have difficulty getting through thick fur coats.

So, the red bumps tend to be in less-furry areas like underbellies, necks, and ears.

If your dog has been running in tall grasses and has all three of those indications, it probably has chiggers.

However, if your dog has all three signs, but does not go outside, then your beloved pet might have a different health condition.

No matter what, your dog will benefit from seeing a veterinarian.

How to Care for Chiggers on Dogs

If your dog does have chiggers, you must get them off of your dog.

Fortunately, you can clean them off with soap and water because chiggers do not burrow.

Veterinarians can prescribe skin wipes, but most dog parents have success with a basic bath.

Chiggers do not live long, so one infestation does not mean another one will happen.

However, if your dog plays in weeds and grasses regularly, you might have infestations.

Otherwise, once you’ve bathed your dog and removed the chiggers, your dog should recover quickly.

The itchy red bumps go away after chiggers stop feeding.

You may have heard that chiggers can jump from dogs to humans and vice versa.

Once chiggers start feeding on a host, they stay there. When you bathe your dog to remove the mites, they won’t try to get on your skin.

Unlike fleas and ticks, chiggers do not spread diseases.

However, if you do not remove the chiggers, your dog could continue to scratch and get an infection from open sores.

If your dog does not stop scratching after the bath, you should call your vet.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Scratching

Once you give your dog a bath to remove mites, your dog might continue scratching because the red bumps are itchy.

Luckily, several treatment options exist. Most are over-the-counter and inexpensive.

All of the topical remedies work for humans, too.

All of the remedies are topical, so you apply them to the red spots.

The best treatment options include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Calamine lotion
  • Green tea
  • Epsom salts
  • Lotion or bath with colloidal oatmeal

Some dogs have issues with inflammation in the areas where chiggers have bitten them. Scratching can increase inflammation.

To bring down the inflammation and reduce the itchy feeling, feed your dog food with omega-3 fatty acids like sweet potatoes or fish.

You can also use a lotion with omega-3 fatty acids in it, or give your dog pet vitamins with the fatty acid.

Aloe vera is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it can relieve the itchy feeling and reduce inflammation at the bite spot.

Unfortunately, some dogs need more than a topical treatment.

If the itching and scratching continues, your dog might need a steroid, like prednisone, to take care of the problem.

Only your vet can prescribe medication like this.

Preventing More Chiggers on Dogs

While you cannot completely eliminate the chance of your dog becoming a chigger host in the future, you can take steps to reduce the chances.

If you have tall weeds or grass in your yard, keep them short so chiggers do not have anywhere to hide in your yard.

Keep your dog away from unmowed fields and out of bushy areas.

You can also test areas of your yard to see if chiggers live there.

Leave a piece of darkly colored cardboard in the questionable area.

After 30 minutes, look at the cardboard through a magnifying glass.

If you see tiny red or yellow bugs, then you have chiggers.

Because chiggers are so tiny, they are difficult to avoid. If you have them in your area, you can spray insecticides.

Unfortunately, insecticides can be dangerous to dogs and other animals. The best chigger insecticides are DEET, permethrin, and fipronil.

Chiggers do not like essential oils like citronella, jojoba, or tea tree. They also do not like geraniums, so planting them is helpful.

You Can Prevent Chiggers on Dogs

Fortunately, you can take several steps to help your dog quickly recover from chigger bites.

You can also take steps to prevent your dog from being bitten again by chiggers.

The annoying little mites don’t spread disease, and they aren’t deadly.

They just make your dog uncomfortable.

Remember, your vet can help you if your dog needs more than a topical treatment.

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National Canine Research Association of America