If you’ve ever taken a walk with your dog in the woods or through a field, only to have your best friend scratching up a storm for the next several days, you might have experienced a chigger attack.
In cats, chiggers are most commonly found around the ears and between the toes, but can be found almost anywhere on the body. Because of intense itching caused by these mites , your cat may chew or scratch itself, causing self-inflicted wounds. The resulting skin lesions vary from crusted spots to areas of hair loss to raw moist bleeding areas.
These tiny orange – red mites (harvest mites) reside in grass and underbrush during September through January in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They are so small that you might not even notice them on your dog or cat but, once they become a source of itchy discomfort, they’re difficult to ignore.
What are Chiggers?
Chiggers, are commonly found in forests and grasslands and are relatives of spiders. They are nearly microscopic measuring only 1/100 of an inch (0.4 mm) and have an orange hue. In their larval stage, they attach to various animals including humans, cats and dogs.
Contrary to popular belief, Chigger larvae do not burrow deep into the skin and live underneath the skin. Instead, the larvae live on the skin’s surface. During feeding, they pierce the skin with their small, hooked fangs and inject powerful enzymes that digest skin cells, that become liquefied and are consumed by the larvae. The enzymes are irritating to the skin and result in intense itching.
How is a Chigger infestation diagnosed?
A sudden onset of intense itching during the late summer or early fall suggests that chiggers may be present. Many pets will ingest the biting larvae while grooming and owners may not see any of the characteristically orange insects.
Your veterinarian will make the diagnosis by identifying the mite. Accumulations of Chiggers may be seen as intensely orange spots on the skin. If fewer mites are present, they may only be seen on microscopic examination of a superficial skin scraping.
How do I treat Chiggers?
Chiggers must be physically removed and pets treated with medication.
Your veterinarian will prescribe safe and effective treatment.