Mites can cause discomfort in dogs and even spread to humans. Here’s what you need to know about mites in dogs.
An infection of mites is also called mange.
There are many different types of mites that can affect dogs.
When we have identified the mites, treatment is usually simple.
Humans can occasionally catch mites from their pets.
What types of mites can dogs get?
There are lots of types of mites that affect dogs. The common ones in the UK are:
Ear mites - ‘otodectes’, these live in the ear and cause itching and head shaking. They’re spread by close contact with other animals so are usually diagnosed in puppies or dogs who live in animal shelters.
Scabies – the ‘sarcoptes’ mite causes ‘scabies’, properly called ‘sarcoptic mange’. It’s extremely itchy and causes scabby, sore skin. This mite mainly affects foxes, so is most common in dogs that regularly visit areas where foxes are known to spend time.
Demodex – the demodex mite normally lives on the skin, but can grow out of control and cause ‘demodectic mange’ in dogs with poor immune systems or young puppies. It’s not very itchy, but does cause bald patches.
Cheyletiella– otherwise known as 'Walking Dandruff' is rare, but is occasionally seen in young puppies, especially if they’ve been raised in poor conditions. It’s just visible to the naked eye, looking like flakes of dandruff walking over the dog’s back.
How will I know if my dog has mites?
Dogs with mites are usually itchy or inflamed skin and bald patches, although the symptoms vary depending on the mite present.
Your vet will try to see the mite under the microscope by catching it with sticky tape, using a swab to collect it out of the ear, or by scraping the surface layers of the skin onto a microscope slide. Although finding mites like this confirms the diagnosis, not finding mites doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t there, especially in the case of demodex, and treatment is often started regardless.
How do I treat mites in my dog?
If your vet diagnoses mites, your dog will be put on mite treatment. Depending on the type of mite, other pets in the house may need to be treated, even if they aren’t showing symptoms.
For ear mites, a prescription ear drop can be used to kill the mites.
For demodex, sarcoptes and cheyletiella mites, a prescription spot-on or oral tablet is usually used.
Occasionally, medicated shampoos may be required.
What about my family – can mites affect them?
Many mites are not fussy where they live, so can pass from dogs to humans if they’re in close contact. If your dog has been diagnosed with mites, it’s recommended that you wash all bedding and don’t allow your pet on the furniture or into bed. If you or any family members get itchy or have a rash, it’s important you talk to your doctor and explain which mite your dog is being treated for.