Is your four-legged friend itchy and scratching and biting in the same places over and over again? Or maybe you can also see one or the other bald spot in the fur? It’s not always the fault of fleas or ticks, as many might initially assume. The larvae of the so-called autumn grass mite could also have infested your dog, which can lead to severe itching.
From May – depending on the weather, sometimes as early as April – until October, the troublemakers can develop into a real plague and annoy your animal friend massively. But what exactly are grass mites and what can you do against these pests?
Along with ticks and fleas, mites are among the vermin that dogs are occasionally visited by. The fact that the pests cause unpleasant itching is actually bad enough. In addition, they can also cause inflammation on the skin. One of the mites that most commonly affects dogs is the grass mite. The larvae of these arachnids sit on meadows in fields and fields, but also on plants near the ground in the home garden.
When cats or dogs touch the plants, these tiny, yellowish to orange larvae sit on them, dig into the host animal’s skin with their mouthparts and suck its blood. Even humans are safe from direct infestation by this vermin, which is also known as the autumn grass mite. Of course, an infestation is very unpleasant, especially for children.
However, people cannot be infected by their dog or cat, because there is no transmission from animal to animal with grass mite infestation, explains the European Expert Group on Parasites in Animals (ESCAPE) in a guide. The larvae are not transmitted directly from animal to human either.
You can tell whether your dog is affected by the fact that it scratches constantly, its skin is red and the fur falls out on the areas affected by the mite infestation. The grass mites nest most frequently on parts of the body that come into contact with the ground, i.e. the paws, legs, stomach, chest, and also on the head. They even attack the ear canals and nasal cavities.
What are Grass Mites?
The Latin name for the autumn grass mite is “Neotrombicula autumnal”. It belongs to the arachnids and lives as an adult walking mite in the soil or near the ground in rotten plants. As a full-grown mite, it is virtually a vegetarian itself, and therefore not a problem for your dog or for you as a human being, but during the growth phase the larvae need a mammal to which they can attach themselves and from whose lymph they can feed.
After the larva has supplied itself with lymph and cell juices and has grown into a grass mite within three to four days, it falls away on its own from its involuntary provider. After the grass mite eggs have been laid close to the ground – for example in the grass or on plants – the tiny larvae, up to 0.3 millimeters in size, hatch after about four weeks – in our latitudes primarily from May to around mid-October.
After hatching, they immediately go in search of food. The pests love warm, humid climates and low vegetation. They like to hike up the blades of grass or settle on meadows and in forests on moss pads. There they wait until an animal or a human comes close enough to nest on it. In addition to dogs and cats, other animals are also attacked by grass mite larvae. These include mice, sheep, and horses.
If your dog roams through the grass on which one of the six-legged larvae is located, it will drop on him in order to bite as thin a patch of skin as possible. For this reason, the eyelids, the spaces between the paws, the base of the tail, the abdomen, and also the groin area are particularly endangered areas of the body. The larva of the autumn grass mite scratches your dog’s thin skin and releases a secretion that loosens the tissue.
Why Should I Fight Fall Grass Mites in Dogs?
The unpleasant itching in your beloved four-legged friend is caused by a salivary secretion that the larvae of the autumn grass mite secrete through the scratched skin or the stings.
Interesting to know is that not all dogs have problems with the pests. Some animals feel little or no itching, although the larvae have nested in them too. In such a case, your four-legged friend – and therefore you too – have been really lucky.
If your dog is not spared the itching, he may bite or lick himself bloody. Under these circumstances, there is a great risk that unpleasant, bacterially caused inflammation or skin fungal infection allergy itching zones, which are favored by the tiny injuries to the skin, will occur. This can even lead to the need for treatment with antibiotics, which, however, puts a strain on your dog’s intestinal flora and immune system.