Scratching at harvest time
Every autumn my dogs start scratching, which my vet tells me is caused by harvest mites. What are they, and is there anything I can do to prevent them?
Harvest mites (Trombicula autumnalis) are insects found in grass, woodland and other foliage that hop on to bite any animal — or human — that passes. The adult mites live in the soil and are non-parasitic, but their larvae are particularly problematic, especially if you live in areas of chalky soils and on grasslands, cornfields, heathland and scrubby woodland, particularly in southern England.
They are less common on clay soils.
It is just possible to see harvest mites with the naked eye; they appear as bright orange dots that look like paprika. The mites burrow under your dog’s skin and lay their eggs. The larvae can cause huge problems to dogs, mainly affecting the areas of the body closest to the ground with thinner skin, commonly the paws, tummy and groin. The result can be inflamed, reddened patches of skin and incessant scratching.
You can kill the mites using proprietary veterinary insecticidal sprays and, as the larvae are only active during the day, one way to reduce exposure is to walk your dogs in the early morning. Harvest mites tend to be localised; you might find that one field has masses of them and when you walk your dogs elsewhere, even in the next field, they are hardly ever affected. Try to avoid problem areas when you walk your dogs. It is also a good idea to avoid long grasses and vegetation. Keep moving, as the worst infestations occur when sitting down or resting. TB