Chiggers are immature mites that can latch on to and bite both humans and animals. Unlike ticks and mosquitoes (which feed on blood), chiggers inject an enzyme into their host to liquefy skin tissue. This causes a rash of bumps or blisters that cause intense itching and may take several days to abate.
Chiggers aren’t only a risk for humans; they can also attack your pets. But how can you identify and treat chigger bites on your dog?
Can dogs get chiggers?
A dog’s furry coat is pretty good protection against chigger bites, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely safe from the bugs.
Chiggers can attach to and bite parts of your dog’s head, especially the less-hairy areas around their eyes and ears.
If you notice chiggers attached to your dog’s face, you will need to remove them as soon as possible so the bites can begin to heal.
How to identify chigger bites on dogs
The first sign that your dog has chigger bites is itching. Chigger bites are extremely irritating for both humans and animals, and excessive scratching could indicate that your pet has fallen prey to the pests.
If your dogs are itching, take a closer look at their skin. Chigger bites are usually marked by small, red bumps, which will usually appear in clusters. Single red bumps are more likely to indicate another type of bug bite.
Dogs are mostly protected from chigger bites by the thick fur that covers most of their bodies. Bites are most likely to show up on areas with thinner fur (like the skin around the eyes and ears, or on the underside of the belly). If you notice that your dog has been bitten on body parts with less fur, this could be a sign that chiggers are the culprit.
When are chiggers most likely to bite your dog?
Chiggers are most commonly found in long grasses and wooded areas, so your dog is most likely to be bitten when out walking. If your backyard is on the overgrown side, your dog may also pick up chiggers (and other bugs, like ticks and fleas) at home.
How to treat chigger bites on your dog
Chigger bites cause severe itching, which can trigger your dog into fits of relentless scratching. Unfortunately, excessive scratching can break the skin and increase your pet’s risk of infection.
Keep in mind!
To prevent unnecessary health complications, it’s important to treat chigger bites on your dog as soon as possible to relieve the itch and allow the bites to heal.
Step 1: Remove the bugs
The first thing you should do is remove any chiggers that are still attached to your dog’s body. They are most likely to cling to areas with relatively little hair, such as the underbelly, groin, inside the ears, and around the eyes.
These areas are sensitive, so it’s important that you remove the bugs gently. The best way to do this is by using a warm, damp washcloth to carefully wipe away the bugs, or by bathing your dog.
Step 2: Soothe the itch
Once the bugs have been removed, you can start treating the bites. When bathing your dog, mix a few cups of Epson salts or colloidal oatmeal into the water to soothe the itching. You can also add a few drops of liquid soap to kill any remaining chiggers.
If your dog is still battling the itch, try applying an ice pack to cool and numb the affected area. If you choose to use an ice pack, wrap it in a clean tea towel or other covering before applying it to your dog’s skin. Hold the ice pack in place for 10 minutes before removing it and massaging the area. Reapply the ice pack as needed.
Studies have shown that green tea extracts can effectively treat a variety of skin conditions and may help to reduce the itching of chigger bites. Brew some green tea (adjusting the quantity in correspondence with the size of your dog), and dilute it with cold water.
Use the green-tea infused water to wash your dog and reduce the inflammation caused by chigger bites.
If the bites are severe and home remedies aren’t helping, visit your veterinarian for advice. They may be able to prescribe a steroidal medical, like prednisone, to relieve your dog of their symptoms.
How to protect your dog from chiggers
It can be difficult to completely prevent bug bites, but there are steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of a chigger attack.
Tidy up your backyard
Chiggers like shady places and usually hang out in overgrown areas. If your backyard is a little on the scruffy side, it’s a good idea to cut any long grass and trim overgrown shrubs. This will help to reduce the number of chiggers (and other biting bugs) around your home.
Use preventative treatment
Repellent shampoos and sprays that are specifically formulated for dogs can help to keep chiggers, ticks, and fleas away from your dog.
Can humans catch chiggers from dogs?
You can’t catch chiggers from your dog, and chiggers won’t live on your pet long term. These tiny arachnids latch onto a host to feed, and then drop away naturally when they’ve eaten their fill.
Keep in mind!
They do not breed or lay eggs on animals, and won’t jump from your dog to you (or any of your other pets).
Chiggers are an itchy nuisance for humans and animals alike, and your dog may also fall victim to bites. Chiggers usually shelter in damp, humid, overgrown areas, and may latch on to your pet while you’re out walking.
If your dog is bitten by chiggers, it’s important that you do what you can to stop the itch. This is because the excessive scratching caused by chigger bites can easily break the skin and leave your dog vulnerable to infection.
Remove any bugs still attached to your dog’s skin, then bathe your pet in a bath with Epsom salts or colloidal oats to soothe the bites. You can also try to reduce skin inflammation using ice packs, or a green tea solution. In severe cases, you may need to consult with your veterinarian about anti-inflammatory medications.