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Worms in Dogs
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Recognising and Treating Dog Mites

5 min read

Many owners are concerned about mites in dogs, how they can be prevented, and the dog mite treatment options available. We’ve put together a guide on dog mites to help you out.


What are dog mites?

Mites are tiny parasites, usually under a millimetre long, that may live on, or burrow into your dog’s skin and cause irritation and inflammation. Mites are a fairly common health concern for dogs. There are a number of different types of mites, and they cause a range of skin conditions, from dry skin to hair loss and skin irritation.

Mites live in the fur, skin, or sometimes in the ears, and can make life uncomfortable for your dog. Mites are also what cause ‘mange’, a well-known skin condition in dogs.


What health conditions do dog mites cause?

If your pet is infested with dog mites, it is known as a condition called mange. The common types are 'sarcoptic mange' and 'demodectic mange'. Other conditions caused by mites include cheyletiellosis, and trombiculosis, also known as 'harvest mite' infestation. Ear mites live in the ear canals of dogs and can cause severe discomfort, so spotting and treating ear mites is extremely important.

What are the types of dog mites?

There are different types of mites which can affect your four-legged friends. 

Demodectic Mites  (Demodex) 

These mites live within the hair follicle of your dog’s skin and are not often spread between dogs or humans. The main way that this type of dog mite is transferred is during early puppyhood, when female dogs nurse their pups. 

Sarcoptic Mites (Sarcoptes) 

This type of mange is caused by a contagious mite which spends its life cycle buried in the outer layer of your dog’s skin. It causes your dog to become itchy which can lead to skin inflammation, or painful wounds which are a product of scratching. These mites can easily be passed between dogs, as well as between dogs and humans. Sarcoptic mange is sometimes termed ‘scabies’.

Ear mites

Dog ear mites are quite a common mite that many owners will be familiar with. They aren’t burrowing mites, which means they may be visible as very tiny white dots. These are tricky to see with the naked eye, but your vet may be able to spot them when they look in your dog’s ear with an auroscope. These types of mites will present themselves similarly to an ear infection. Ear mite infestations are more common in puppies.

Harvest mites

Usually found on the feet and legs, harvest mites are commonly picked up by dogs in rural areas. These mites can also affect cats as well as humans, and are more often seen in the late summer months.


This type of dog mite is known as ‘walking dandruff’ because initially it looks like your pet just has dandruff. It’s not usually itchy unless your pet has a hypersensitivity to the mite, and can spread between dogs and other animals 

How do I tell if my dog has mites?

Sarcoptic mange is a very itchy and unpleasant dog skin condition that can also affect humans. Affected dogs can cause damage to their skin and coat with constant scratching, leaving redness and sometimes scabs.

Demodectic mange is a serious skin complaint that causes hair loss, reddening, sore areas, scaling, crusting, lesions and the darkening of chronically affected skin. It usually affects younger dogs and can be very serious if left untreated.

Can dog mites affect humans?

Mites typically only prefer one species; however, some can also infect humans if they come within close contact with the mite. The most common dog mites which can affect humans are sarcoptic dog mites, these are highly contagious and can cause itchiness and inflammation. 

Dog mite symptoms

If you notice the following symptoms in your dog, they may have mites:

  • Hair loss (either in patches, or all over their coat).
  • Dandruff.
  • Excessive scratching.
  • Visible irritation, such as red skin.
  • You may even be able to see mites on their skin – part the fur and look closely.


Diagnosing mites in dogs

You might get clues as to whether your dog has mites by carefully studying their skin. If they’re scratching, biting, or chewing themselves excessively you might suspect they have mites, and take a closer look.

Your vet, however, is the best person to diagnose mites in your dog. They will be able to tell what kind of mites your dog has, and how they should be treated.

Your vet will usually diagnose mites by studying a piece of skin or hair under the microscope. Taking samples is a quick and usually pain-free procedure. This will help your vet identify the type of mite affecting your dog.

Dog mites treatment

The good news is that most mite infestations can be effectively treated. 

Your vet may prescribe medicine or a spot-on to help get rid of the infestation, or sometimes a wash or shampoo. Sometimes more than one dog mite treatment will be used at a time, and they may have to be administered for a while. The best thing you can do is be patient and persevere – and soon your dog will be mite-free!

How do dogs get mites?

Dogs can pick up mites from a number of places. They are often passed from dog to dog, but they can come from their environment too. The precise why in which they are transmitted depends on the type of mite.

Your dog may catch mites if they come into contact with another dog who has them. Typically this will be another dog in the household, but can also be in places such as an animal shelter or grooming establishment. Your dog may also pick them up from another dog when you’re out and about on a walk.

Dog mites may also continue to live in the environment, such as in their bed or in the carpet, after they or another dog have been contaminated. Your dog can then pick them up again, which is why you should make sure everything is clean and mite-free after a known infestation.


How to prevent dog mites

The best way to prevent dog mites is to ensure they don’t come into contact with a dog who has them. This can be tricky, as you won’t always know, but keep an eye out if they come into contact with an unfamiliar dog.

If you dog has been treated for mites, wash their bedding and check that their surrounding environment has been cleaned, as this can help prevent re-infestation. And, of course, if your dog has mites make sure they don’t pass them on – usually by keeping them away from other dogs until they’ve been treated.

If you'd like to know more about preventing and treating skin conditions in dogs, check out our easy guide to dog skin problems. Or find out more about treating ticksfleas and other parasites on dogs.

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