Scratch­ing at har­vest time

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - SPORTING ANSWERS -

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

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