CityVet says: Look out for harvest mites

two brown and white dogs running dirt road during daytime
Photo: Alvan Nee/Unsplash.

HARVEST mites are tiny orange mites commonly found in forests and grasslands and are most common during late summer and early autumn – hence the name “harvest” mites.

Also known as ‘chiggers’, these are the larva of the Red Spider Mite, sometimes called ‘blood suckers’ and other names. Only the larval stage is parasitic and during this stage they can attach to various animals and people, causing a painful skin conditions in affected animals and people.

As a result of this, in an attempt to remove the mites from the skin, pets frequently scratch, lick, or chew at themselves, causing further pain and skin damage and making diagnosis more difficult.

The larvae are active during the day, especially in dry, sunny weather and attach onto the skin, especially sparsely haired areas such as between the toes and around the eyes and ears. When the larvae feed, they pierce the skin and inject an irritating fluid. This results in intense itching, which can cause the dog or cat to chew or scratch itself, causing self-inflicted wounds. This can continue even after the mites have disappeared if the animal remains untreated. Some pets can become allergic to the mites, making the condition even worse for individual pets.

Diagnosing harvest mites

A sudden onset of intense itching during the late summer or early autumn can suggest harvest mites or similar parasites such as fleas, ticks, mites, or even allergies. Many pets ingest the biting larvae by licking or grooming and owners may not see any of the characteristically orange mites.

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Diagnosis depends on finding the mite in the coat and skin. Accumulations of mites may be seen as intensely orange spots on the skin. If fewer mites are present, they may be found by microscopic examination of skin debris.


Your vet will prescribe safe and effective treatments for the damaged skin and mite infestation.

There are currently no products licensed for treatment of harvest mites in cats and dogs. Some insecticides approved for flea control may effectively kill harvest mites if correctly applied. In many cases, the pet will not require any treatment once the mites are killed. For some cats and dogs that are very sensitive to bites, medications may be needed. In cases with secondary skin infections, antibiotics may also be needed.

People can also be affected by harvest mites, though these are not spread from cats or dogs but from infested outdoor environments. The mites typically attach to peoples’ ankles when they walk through infested vegetation.

Limerick’s Dr Doolittle, Donal Ryan of CityVet on Lord Edward Street, knows a thing or two about caring for animals. He regularly takes the time to give Limerick Post readers some sterling advice on how to best take care of their furry family members.