What is Trombiculiasis (Chiggers)?
Chiggers are commonly found throughout the year in warm climates and in seasonal climates they present from spring through fall. They are easily caught by your dog due to how tiny they are and that they can be missed when checking your dog after he has been outdoors. There are over 10,000 species of chiggers in the world.
It is most common for your dog to catch the chiggers on his body parts that encounter the ground. You may confuse your dog’s chigger infestation with other common issues such as dermatitis (skin irritation), fleas, allergic reaction, or scabies. However, you will notice that other treatment options are not benefitting your dog and he is beginning to develop sores or open spots from scratching his skin.
Trombiculiasis is also known as the mite chiggers. This mite is common for dogs to catch especially in warmer weather. This parasite will cause your dog itching and irritation of his skin. If left untreated it can cause infections secondary to his continuous scratching at his skin.
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Symptoms of Trombiculiasis (Chiggers) in Dogs
Symptoms are generalized to other skin conditions and therefore hard to identify as being chiggers. However, some of the symptoms to look for are:
- Red raised bumps – These will tend to be very itchy for your dog and may be inflamed or irritated
- Broken skin – You may notice that your dog has scratched his skin raw and/or created lesions on his skin
- Rashes – This will most likely occur on areas of his body that have come in to contact with the ground (underside, legs, ears, face and head)
- Erythema – Redness or a general irritation of your dog’s skin in patches like a widespread rash
- Pimples – Your dog may develop pimples on his skin as well and can form alongside a rash
- Alopecia – You may notice in more advanced stages or in severe reactions that your dog is losing his fur in places
There are two types of chiggers: Neotrombicula autumnalis and Eutrombicula alfreddugesi. The Neotrombicula autumnalis is found in Europe and Eutrombicula alfreddugesi is found in America. There is no known difference in symptoms between the two.
Causes of Trombiculiasis (Chiggers) in Dogs
The cause of your dog being infected with chiggers is simply his being exposed to them when he is outdoors.
- Adult mites lay their eggs on the ground and then hatch into the chiggers that attack your dog
- Because the larvae hatch on the ground they end up crawling into grass and bushes where your dog is exposed to them
- The chiggers attach to your dog to feed and then fall off and molt into adults
Diagnosis of Trombiculiasis (Chiggers) in Dogs
When planning a visit to your veterinarian it will be beneficial to go in prepared with information about any symptoms that you have noticed. Inform your veterinarian if your dog roams around brush and grass. Share if your dog recently encountered anything that he could be having an allergic reaction to, or any changes to his environment that could have triggered the symptoms.
To diagnose your dog with chiggers your veterinarian will take a recent history (diet, travel, grooming habits) and look for the symptoms listed above. The veterinarian will also look for an orange crust on his skin, verify if he has been outdoors, and may find the larvae on his skin when performing and investigating scrapings. If necessary, she will perform additional testing to eliminate other conditions. While chiggers can be seasonal in some areas, depending on where you live, your companion may come in contact with them year around.
Treatment of Trombiculiasis (Chiggers) in Dogs
Treatment is somewhat difficult due to the main option being keeping your dog away from areas where the chigger mites are in large numbers. However, you can also clear the area that contains the mites and prevent infestation in that way. Once your dog has gotten chiggers it is somewhat difficult to get rid of them. There are natural options you can try at home if you know for a fact your dog has chiggers. However, there are also treatment options your veterinarian may suggest.
Once you realize your dog has come into contact with the chiggers it is best to give him a soapy bath which will help to remove any chiggers there, and is a necessary step before providing any treatment. Once your dog is clean you can give him an oatmeal bath which will help to soothe his itchy and irritated skin. If this does not work you can also use an Epsom salt and dish soap bath. This option works due to the salt working as an anti-itch for his skin and the dish soap providing an easy way to get rid of the chiggers.
Ice packs can be used to calm his irritated skin, while green tea can be used as a rinse to also help calm his skin. Lastly, you have the option of using hydrocortisone. If none of these options work on your own, then bringing him to the veterinarian will be necessary.
Veterinarian provided options
In the event the above did not work or you are not comfortable trying these things at home, your veterinarian may suggest trying a dip or spray that is used to treat parasites. These treatment options can be used once or twice and your veterinarian will discuss the options with you.
There is some mixed indication as to whether repellant medications such as pyrethroids work or not. However, two other options are fipronil and permethrin which not only prevent infestation but can treat your dog once he has been infected.
Recovery of Trombiculiasis (Chiggers) in Dogs
Once the chiggers are removed your dog’s symptoms may begin to subside as soon as a day or two and as his symptoms are treated he should be free of symptoms within 2 weeks. Follow up will only be needed as directed by your veterinarian but most likely will not be necessary.
Once again, prevention is key with chiggers and using pesticides to rid your yard of them, clearing the dense areas where they are, and preventing your dog from coming into contact with them to begin with, are the best options for long term maintenance. If these things are not done, your dog may become infested with chiggers again.
Trombiculiasis (Chiggers) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog remains miserable from itching, chewing himself constantly. I am almost sure it it chiggers. It is driving us both crazy. Please advise how to treat him!!! Thank you!
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What can I do to ease scratching on my dogs which is causing them to get open sores, and puss leaking from the open sores? It is also causing them to rub on anything that they can get in contact with.
My pitbull has a rash in arm pit area. He has dug it until it looks raw. Could this be allergic reaction or chiggers?
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