Harvest Mites in Dogs and Cats

The larvae of harvest mites can cause seasonal skin challenges for dogs and cats, particularly during late summer and autumn.

The larvae of harvest mites can cause seasonal skin challenges for dogs and cats, particularly during late summer and autumn. This six legged harvest mite larva feeds on tissue fluid and may cause considerable skin itch and discomfort to both dogs and cats. This article tells you how to avoid them, and what you can do if your dog or cat does get attacked by them.

Where do you find them?

The large orange/yellow larvae are widely distributed in the UK. Heavy infestations may be sharply localised - even to the extent of being abundant in one garden and absent from others in the same area. It is also found in town gardens and parks.

When they attack

The first active stage in the life cycle of the harvest mite is the six-legged larva - this is the only stage which attacks dogs and cats. These larvae congregate in large groups on small clods of earth, long grass, matted vegetation and even on low bushes and plants. They are active during the day, especially when it is dry and sunny. When they come into contact with any warm blooded animal they swarm on and congregate in areas where there is little hair and the skin is quite thin.

Harvest mite larvae feed by thrusting their small hooked fangs into the skin surface. The larvae do not burrow into the skin or suck blood. They inject a fluid containing powerful digestive enzymes which break down the skin cells. The resulting liquefied skin tissues are then sucked back into the digestive system of the larva.

Signs of infestation

The larvae can be recognized as clusters of small red-orange coloured “dust” attached to hairs on the body.

The larvae will inject and suck for two to three days at the same site until it is full and has increased in size three to four times before dropping off the host, leaving a red swelling on the skin that can itch severely.

The itching will usually develop within 3 to 6 hours of exposure, but can continue for several weeks afterwards. This can lead to rubbing, biting and scratching, and can lead to scurf and hair loss in a few cases. If the skin is damaged due to scratching, these areas can also become infected with bacteria.

Prevention / Avoidance

Harvest mite larvae are only active during the day. If you can exercise your pet early in the morning before they become too active, this can help reduce the risk of infestation. If possible, avoiding long grasses and vegetation can also help, and keep moving – the worst infestations will occur when sitting down or laying down in a sunny spot in the middle of the day!

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There is no licensed treatment for harvest mites available in the UK. However, some particular flea treatments available from your vet may be effective but this should always be carried out under direction of your vet. If left untreated, the larvae will feed for a few days then drop off.

Relieving the itch!

If your pet has been unlucky enough to come into contact with harvest mite larvae, and is now itching and scratching, there are a couple of things you can do to help relieve the itch. The itchy symptoms can last for several weeks or even months, so the sooner you start helping your pet to cope with the problem, the better:

  1. Add Yumega Plus (for dogs) or Yumega Cat (for cats) to their food

The combination of omega 3 EPA  from fresh salmon oil and omega 6 GLA help to calm the skin, relieving itching and scratching, whilst the omega 6 Linoleic Acid helps to support the skin’s natural moisture barrier, supporting the skin’s health. The addition of natural Vitamin E supports the skin’s defences. By adding Yumega Plus or Yumega Cat to your pet's food, you can help them cope with the itchy symptoms left behind after the harvest mite attack. The sooner you start adding this to your pet's food, the sooner they will start to feel the benefits.

  1. Spray the affected area with our Silverwater Eye Spray.

The antibacterial silver ions in our Silverwater Eye Spray will help to kill off the bacteria introduced into the bite which can make itching worse. Simply spray a few squirts on the affected area to clean it up and provide a little relief.

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