Chigger bites on dogs can be a serious problem if misidentified and not treated properly.
Fortunately, treatment is fairly simple and with a little care, your dog’s bites will be healed in no time.
The most important thing is to properly identify them as chigger bites so you can treat them and prevent further infestations in the future.
What Are Chiggers?
Chiggers are mites by the scientific name Trombiculiasis in their larval stage. They are very small, barely visible to the naked eye because they are only juveniles.
Chiggers go by several names including harvest mites, harvest bugs, harvest lice, mower’s mites, red bugs, itch mites, and scrub mites.
But all these names refer to the same thing – chiggers.
They are most commonly red but sometimes can appear orange, yellow, or straw-colored.
Chiggers thrive in warm, humid climates and are most common during the late spring to fall. But they can be found any time in climates that are warm and humid year round. They can be found all around the world.
Adult Trombiculiasis lay many eggs at a time on grass or foliage and when chiggers hatch, they don’t travel far. They wait for a host to attach to and feed on. This could be you or your dog.
One distinguishing feature of chigger bites on dogs or humans is that they come in clumps or clusters. This is because chiggers are born and live in groups until they find a host to feed on.
Can Dogs Get Chigger Bites?
Dogs can get chigger bites. They are more protected because of their fur but chiggers can still attack their heads, neck, or ears. Dogs with little fur may be more susceptible to chigger bites.
You likely won’t notice chiggers even if you check your dog after being outdoors because the chiggers are so small. But you may observe your dog becoming very itchy in a specific spot on it’s body anywhere from hours to a day after being infested with chiggers.
It’s common to misidentify chigger bites for other problems such as skin irritation (dermatitis), fleas, scabies, or even an alergic reaction to something.
That’s why it’s important to know how to identify chigger bites on dogs.
Identifying Chigger Bites on Dogs
There are a few indications that your dog has been attacked by chiggers and is not having skin irritation or some other kind of bite.
The first indication is the itching. Anywhere from a few hours to a day after being infected with chiggers, your dog will be itching like crazy and you may observe several small red bumps.
The second indication is that there are several bumps in a cluster. Because chiggers hatch in groups, several chiggers infect your dog at one time. If you only see a single red bite, or a rash rather than bumps, your dog likely does NOT have chiggers.
The third indication is that the bumps appear on an area of your dogs body that is less protected from fur. It’s common for dogs to get attacked by chiggers on their head, ears, or the undersides of their bellies because the fur in these areas is not as thick as the fur on their backs. Chiggers are small and have trouble getting through thick fur.
You might also consider if your dog has been running around near tall grass or foliage in the past day. If your dog is mostly indoors and stays on a leash when you walk it, you might be able to rule out chigger bites. Use caution though, as sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where your dog has been in the past 24 hours.
What to Do for Chigger Bites on Dogs
The first thing you should do is get the chiggers off. They don’t burrow into the skin so they can be washed off by soap and water. It is possible to remove them with a soft cloth or vet-recommended skin wipe but a good, thorough bath is likely more effective.
Chiggers don’t live on your dog long term so you don’t need to worry about them being a reoccuring problem unless your dog gets attacked again. They are only in their larval stage and will leave your dog after they are done feeding on it’s skin or when you wash them off. That’s why it’s best to wash them off as soon as possible.
They also are unlikely to transfer from dogs to humans. If your dog has them, they will do their best to feed on it but won’t seek another food source.
The next thing to do is treat the itching.
Chiggers don’t carry disease and their bites will heal on their own if left alone. The problem is that chigger bites on dogs are extremely itchy and your dog will want to scratch them.
Excessive scratching makes the bites worse and they may turn into open spots or sores and become infected so it’s extremely important to treat the itching.
How to Treat Chigger Bites on Dogs
The chigger bites will heal on their own as long as they aren’t scratched too much. It can be challenging to get your dog to stop itching its chigger bites but you must do everything you can to control the itching so bites can heal.
There are several remedies that help control itching associated with chigger bites on dogs. Many of the same remedies are used on humans:
- Calamine lotion
- Colloidal oatmeal
- Apple cider vinegar
- Green tea
- Epsom salts
It’s common to see some inflammation along with chigger bites on dogs, especially after they have scratched them even just a little.
According to PetMD, a sweet potato and fish diet can help with inflammation. You can buy commercial dog food with these ingredients rather than try to prepare them yourself.
Consider giving your dog omega-3 fatty acids or applying them directly onto the chigger bites to help with inflamation.
Another topical treatment to help with inflammation associated with scratching chigger bites on dogs is aloe vera. This not only will help with inflammation, but it will cool your dogs skin and provide some relief from the itching and irritation.
If your dogs bites seem to be getting worse, take him to your vet. Prednisone is a common prescription for dogs with inflamation.
Prevent Future Chigger Bites on Dogs
The best way to prevent chigger bites on dogs is to keep them away from chigger infested areas. This is easier said than done though. Insecticides and natural repellents are also an option.
Controlling Chiggers in Your Yard
You may have chiggers in your backyard, in which case you will want to control them by removing their habitat. Keep long grass mowed and trim bushy shrubs that contain chiggers.
To test if an area of your yard has chiggers, place a dark piece of cardboard in the suspected area and leave it for a few minutes. Check the cardboard with a magnifying glass near the tops for tiny red bugs.
You can read more about controlling chiggers in your backyard here.
DEET, Insecticides, and Natural Repellents
If it’s not possible to keep your dog away from chigger infested areas, you may consider an insecticide or insect repellent. DEET is effective at repelling chiggers. Insecticides like permethrin and fipronil are also useful against chiggers.
For natural defenses against chiggers, essential oils and sprays that contain the following ingredients are also effective: citronella, tea tree, jojoba, geranium, or lemon grass.
If you think your dog has a chigger infestation, the most important first step is to ensure the bites are from chiggers and rule out anything else. Next, it’s very important to control the itching because the chigger bites will heal on their own when left alone. Some inflammation is expected and there are simple treatments, but if the problem gets worse, it’s time to take your dog to the vet. Finally, you want to make sure to protect your dog against future chigger infestations.
Read about the many different ways to treat chigger bites in 17 Amazing Treatments for Chigger Bites (including Home Remedies)
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