Chiggers on Dogs

Chiggers not only are a huge problem for us humans but for also for our furry canine friends and companions as well.   If you've ever taken your dog out for a walk, only to return with them itching constantly for several days, your dog just might have chiggers.   Unfortunately, Chiggers on Dogs and humans are a common problem.  

Chiggers on Dogs

What Are Chiggers?

Chiggers are the larval form of the Trombiculidae family.  Also commonly known as red bugs, harvest mites, jiggers, and itch mites.  Chiggers live in damp areas of woods and tall grass.   

Chiggers feed on any live animal with skin such as people, animals, birds and even some reptiles.  They are very very small, and difficult to see with the naked eye.  

As the victim walks through the tall grass, the mites jump onto them and immediately begin to find any area of skin they can.  They do not burrow into the skin, as many people think they do.  Instead, they rip open the skin and insert a straw-like appendage into the opening.  They then inject saliva to begin breaking down the softer skin, and "drink" the mixture up.

Chigger

Photo by: Hansell F. Cross, Georgia State University, Bugwood.org

Chiggers can feed for up to two days, then fall off, leaving behind the straw like appendage.  The combination of the remaining appendage, the torn skin, and allergic reaction to the bite itself, causing the intense itching.

The American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP) states that Chiggers tend to congregate in one area after hatching.  This means the unsuspecting host is often likely to be attacked by swarms of chiggers at one time, resulting in numerous bites all in the same area.

>> Read more on Chiggers in our What Are Chiggers Guide.

Can Dogs Get Chiggers?

Unfortunately, dogs can get Chiggers as often and nearly as easy as humans.  Dogs do benefit from the protection of their fur, which makes it more difficult for Chiggers to reach their skin.  Dogs with more dense fur, are better protected.

Because of the heavy fur on a dog's body, Chiggers on dogs tend to attach themselves on a dogs head, ears and around their eyes.

Dogs frequently get Chiggers after taking walks with their owners, through fields, woods, or even the local park, particularly during the Late-Spring, Summer, and early Fall.

How to Remove Chiggers on Dogs

If you think your dog might have been exposed to Chiggers, your first line of defense and treatment is to remove them as quickly as possible.   This is done very easily by bathing them with soap and water.  Soap and warm water will both wash them off and kill them.

In more sensitive areas, like the head, ears, and eyes where Chiggers can commonly attach themselves, you can wipe the area with a cloth.

How to Prevent Chiggers on Dogs

Chiggers On Dogs

The best way to treat Chiggers is to avoid getting them in the first place.   Avoid areas that are commonly infested with Chiggers, or you think maybe infested.  

Always stay on trails and avoid off-trail locations with your dog when possible.  If you think you may be going into an area infested with Chiggers, you can spray your dog with a PET SAFE insect repellent.  NEVER use insect repellent products made for humans, especially those containing DEET.

DEET can cause vomiting, seizures, and skin irritation when dogs are exposed to it.  If you use a DEET based product on yourself, avoid spraying it around your dog, and NEVER let your dog lick you.

Again, always bath your dog immediately when returning home from walks where you think they may have been exposed to Chiggers.  The bath will wash them off and kill them.

Systemic pet treatments containing acaricides (any medication used for killing ticks and mites, like Frontline, Revolution, and Seresto) kill chiggers as well as ticks and can help repel the pests.   These are always good and safe options for your pet.

How to Treat Chigger Bites on Dogs

If your dog begins to show signs of Chigger Bites, you may need to treat the bites, to avoid the risk of your dog scratching them and causing infection.  Once your dog begins to show signs of Chigger Bites, it's too late to treat the actual Chiggers, as they've already fallen off.

Be aware, that Chigger bites on dogs are often mistaken for flea bites.  Treatment is very different, and you'll want to be sure you're treating the problem correctly.

The best way to treat severe Chigger bites on your dog is to see your Vet.  Generally, Chigger bites on dogs aren't as severe as they are on humans, and frequent warm baths will help relieve the itching.

More severe bites should be treated by your Vet, who may prescribe an oral steroid like prednisone to ease inflammation and itching.

There are some natural remedies you can use to treat Chigger Bites on dogs, but they generally don't work well, and you should always consult with your Vet prior to using them.  

Natural remedies for Chiggers Bites on Dogs include:

  1. Epsom Salt BathsEpsom salt and soap makes a good bath to help relieve the itching, and will also kill any remaining Chiggers.
  2. Colloidal Oatmeal Baths - Oatmeal is well known for its soothing properties, and it works on your pets’ skin as well and can help relieve itching.   Cook some quick oats in warm water and rub them on your pet in the bath. 
  3. AloeAloe is a well known, and naturally soothing plant.  Aloe can be added to bath water or rubbed directly onto bite areas to help relieve itching.
  4. Calamine LotionThis common chalky pink lotion can be applied to Chigger bites to relieve the itching.