Chiggers are parasitic hexapods found in woods, meadows, areas with tall grasses, and weedy, grassland around rivers, ponds, and golf courses.
There are over 3000 species of chiggers in the world. They are relatives of spiders and the scientific name for chiggers is Trombiculamites in their larval stage. They’re also known as red bugs, mower’s mites, harvest bugs, harvest mites, scrub mites, and itch mites.
Chiggers are most common during the late spring to fall and thrive in warm, temperate climates. They are found most commonly from September through January in the southeastern part of the United States.
It’s common to misdiagnose chigger bites for other problems such as Scabies, dermatitis, other mite infestations, fleas, or even an allergic reaction to something.
These tiny orange-red mites lay many eggs on foliage or grass at a time and the hatched chiggers don’t travel too far. The larvae of free-living adult mites hang around for a host to latch on to. To make matters worse, the newly hatched chigger larvae tend to assemble in one area, which means an unwary host, is likely to be exposed to a whole congregation of chiggers at one instance.
Topical products include:
- LymDyp - Lime sulphur dips applied every 5 to 7 days for 6 dips. Dilute the solution as directed on the label.
- Ivermectin Injection: Dogs must be heartworm negative before initiating therapy. This is not used in Collies, Shelties.
- Selenium sulphide shampoo- weekly once for three weeks.
Most spot-on products are also effective. Examples include:
- Revolution (selamectin) once a month for three months.
- Fipronil (dogs and cats only).
- For any swelling found in the skin, Use a cold pack or compress.
- Baking soda and water paste to the wounds in exposed areas (don’t use it in messy fur).
- Frozen peas, corn, or a bag of frozen vegetables works well.
- Hydrocortisone or Aloe vera gel, or calamine lotion may be safe for dogs to reduce itching and inflammation.
- Give your dog an oatmeal bath.
- Check with your vet and give your dog Benadryl (one milligram per pound/every 8 hrs).
- Clean up the backyard periodically; maintain sanitary and hygienic conditions in the home.
- A wide variety of effective tick collars, spot-on treatments, and oral medications are available; Consult with your veterinarian about the best product for your dog.
- Herding dogs’ access to the feeding areas should be restricted, including grassy forested pathways and wooded tick-infested areas.
- Frisk your dog - in the ears, neck, belly, chest, back, and toes for any fleas or ticks.
- Flush the dog’s ear monthly with an apple cider vinegar and water solution or a commercial ear flush.
- There are medicated shampoos for pets specifically for controlling mites and other parasites.
- Mite hotspots are upholstered furniture, bedding, pillows, mattresses, carpets, or curtains in your home. When you notice a significant infestation, Wash your linens in very hot water (+130°) at least once a week to kill dust mites.
- There are air filters that can stop the spreading of dust mites. Special HEPA air filters in the vacuum cleaner, portable air filter unit, and in the HVAC system effectively trap mites, dust, and skin cells.
- When the dust mites in your home are out of control, there are commercial powders and pesticides available to use for dust mite control.
There is no breed disposition.
- Chiggers are prostigmatid mites’ parasitic larval stage and they measure only 0.2 to 0.4 mm in size (1/100 of an inch).
- The characteristic feature of chigger bites on dogs or humans is that they come in clusters or clumps.
- Larval chiggers do not burrow deep into the skin; instead, the chiggers don’t penetrate the skin and they live on the skin’s surface.
- During feeding, they penetrate the skin with a tube called stylostome - solidified form of salivary secretions.
- They infuse powerful enzymes through the tube and suck up liquefied skin tissue.
- When the feeding is finished, the chigger detaches and enters into a period of quiescence - the prenymphal stage in which they molt into non-parasitic nymphs.
- Meanwhile, the feeding tube that stays attached to the host is the cause of intense pruritus and the development of pustules and macules.
Only two species of chiggers are bothersome to dogs:
Trombicula irritans (Eutrombicula alfreddugesi): North America.
Neotrombicula autumnalis: Europe.
There is no known difference in symptoms between the two.
- Itching- after being infected with chiggers, itching starts from a few hours to a day.
- Small red bumps.
- The distinguishing feature of a chigger's bite is several bumps in a cluster.
- A single red bite, or a rash rather than bumps, is not chiggers.
- Bumps emerge on the part of the dog’s body that is less protected from fur.
- Head, the undersides, toes, or ears.
There is no reported mortality due to chiggers’ infection.
- Complete blood count.
- Microscopic examination of a superficial skin scraping.
Most cases of chiggers are treatable and once the treatment is started, the symptoms subside within a day or two.
When To See A Vet
Contact your vet right away, if you notice any of the following:
- Red, Bumpy rash
- Protein - Animal meat (avoid raw meat), Lean boiled meats, seafood, and eggs.
- Fresh vegetables
- Carbohydrates - Brown rice, Barley (pearled), Grains.
- Fatty acids - Cooked egg yolks, Plant oils, Sunflower, and Corn.
- Avoid trans fat, a small amount of beef fat, and steak fat.
- Calcium - Powdered or crushed eggshells, supplements.
- Antioxidant foods.
Always adhere to your veterinarian's treatment plan and use medications as directed.
Most of the medications have to be repeated in two to three weeks to break the life cycle so that we don't just get it again from the same source.