Chiggers on pets possible, but unlikely

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

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jkoch

By John Koch, DVM ~

Question: My dog loves to go outside. Since we have a fenced-in back yard, I let him spend a lot of time out there. Recently I have noticed Tippy chewing a lot on his legs and feet. When I looked at these areas, I found numerous little red spots that appear to be insect bites. I don't see any fleas or ticks. I have also noticed a few itchy red bumps on my ankles that appear to be chigger bites. Could Tippy also be getting chigger bites? Is there any way of keeping him from getting them?

Answer: It is certainly possible for dogs or cats to get chigger bites. Summer and fall are the prime reasons for chiggers in our region of the country. However, chiggers do not seem to be attracted to either of these animals, so consequently their incidence of chigger bites is infrequent.

Chiggers are some times called harvest mites because they are more common in the fall. They are free-living and not considered to be parasitic. When one of these tiny bright orange mites does bite, it can produce an intensely irritating papule or wheal.

If you think your pet has chiggers, most parasitical preparations will kill them. One example considered to be good is Fipronil or Frontline. Preventing chiggers is another matter. Almost all of the repellents do not work well. One repellent that does work is sublimated sulfur. It is a powder that may be sprinkled on areas of the pet where exposure is likely, such as the feet, legs and abdomen. There are two disadvantages to sublimated sulfur. The chemical, although available, is not easily found. The second disadvantage is that this stuff really stinks, to put it bluntly. I would not recommend it to be used on any dog kept in the house.

Because chigger bites are relatively rare in pets, you should consider other causes for your pet's rash. Allergies, infection, mange and other parasites all are more likely possibilities.

Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau area veterinarian.

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