Mange in Dogs This Spring

With the spring season closing in, mange in dogs go on the rise. This spring and fall are the two seasons when this mange is found most commonly in animals. Mange mites are found mainly in (but not limited to) the central parts of the United States. Not only do they affect dogs, but cats and humans as well.

What are Chiggers?

These mites lay their eggs in the soil around vegetation. When a host comes along, they attach themselves and feed on the fluids present in the tissue for days and then leave. After they have left a host, they mature into adults and continue their life cycle, which generally lasts 50-55 days in total. During this stage they do not feed on animals.

In order to feed, chiggers inject their saliva into the skin of a dog. The saliva will begin to break down the skin cells into a liquid. This liquid can then be drank by a mite. The enzymes in the saliva are what cause the itching and rash on a dog.

The Symptoms of Chiggers

When a dog becomes infected with chiggers, they may exhibit lesions on the belly, head, legs, feet, and ears. When the mites feed on the skin, they leave red bumps that are often very itchy. These red bumps are actually tiny wounds, because the mite has damaged the skin. Symptoms of this type of mange in dogs will generally occur in the places that the animal has come in contact with vegetation in the area.

Diagnosing Chiggers

After determining that a dog may have this mange, the owner should take their animal to the vet. The veterinarian will perform an examination and remove one of the mites for inspection. During feeding these mites often seem securely stuck to the skin. The vet will place the mite under a microscope and look for the tell-tale sign – six legs.

Treatments for Chiggers

The treatment options for chiggers involve topical ointments or sprays used to kill the parasites, known as an anti-parasite. The ointment is applied to a localized area, like the ears. For the pain of itching, topical ointments or steroids can be administered. Steroids are usually reserved for severe cases of itching.

Chiggers are fairly easily to remove from a dog through brushing. A dog can easily remove them itself by scratching. Thorough bathing can remove any leftover mites.

It is important to keep dogs away from areas that are known to harbor chiggers. These mites tend to inhabit the same areas year after year, so a simple change of the places an owner takes a dog for a walk should be sufficient.

Preventing Mange

Vigilance is the first step to preventing mange in dogs or catching it before it does any damage. Owners can get educated on the symptoms and signs of mange and prevent the condition from worsening.

Ensuring a dog has a healthy diet can help prevent the occurrence of mange. Dogs with a compromised immune system will have a hard time fighting off the infection of mange than others. A premium dog food can provide the right amount of nutrients and vitamins needed to stay healthy.

Owners should keep themselves informed on whether other dogs in the area have been infected with mange. If they are, they should be kept away from other dogs.

Dogs should be kept clean and groomed at all times. Most dogs can do well with a monthly bath schedule. There are dry shampoo options for those dogs that dislike the bath.

Most dogs should have a regular visit to the vet to ensure health. A veterinarian will be able to accurately diagnose a dog’s health and catch and early signs of chiggers. If they suspect chiggers, they will perform the appropriate tests to diagnose any problems.

Humans and Chiggers

If an owner is discovering bites on their own skin, they may have contracted the chiggers themselves, but once the mites have been eradicated from the house there is no risk of infection. It is not common for these mites to be passed on to humans, and if they have, they were most likely contracted from the same area a dog contracted them from.

Getting to know the signs and symptoms of chiggers can prevent a mange infection and considerable discomfort in a dog.

Chris Onyett is a designer and a passionate writer on promoting dog health. He created the Dog Help Network after an experience with his own dog, Kupo. He learned that doing proper research and learning from others’ experiences can be just as important as taking a veterinarian’s advice. Connect with Chris on Google+.

About Stacy @Trupanion

Stacy Kowalchuk is a dog mom to her rescued Whippet-mix, Ellie. During the week, you can find Stacy surfing (the internet, that is) and managing Trupanion's presence in the social media world. In her free time, Stacy likes to bake, especially cupcakes! To balance her culinary affinity, she also likes to stay active, especially with activities that include her dog such as hiking and going to dog parks.

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