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What are harvest mites?

From late August into October, these pesky pests can make our canine and feline friends feel far from 100%. So what’s happening when harvest mites attack, how can you help to prevent the problem and soothe the scratching if the worst happens?

Harvest mites (Trombicula autumnalis) cause seasonal skin challenges for dogs during late summer and autumn. The first active stage in the life cycle of the harvest mite is the six-legged larva – and this is the tiny pest that causes big problems for our pets.

Harvest mite larvae are active during the day, especially when it’s dry and sunny. They congregate in large groups on small clods of earth, long grass, matted vegetation, and even on low bushes and plants. When harvest mites come into contact with any warm blooded animal, they’ll swarm on and congregate around your dog’s front legs (on their chest and in their ‘armpits’), on tummies and necks, and around the genitals.

What causes harvest mites to itch?

Unlike fleas and other parasites, harvest mite larvae don’t burrow into the skin or suck blood. Instead, they feed by thrusting small hooked fangs into the skin surface. Once attached, they inject powerful digestive enzymes which break down the skin cells. Once the cells disintegrate, the larva sucks up its liquid lunch. The mite will inject and suck at the same site for 2-3 days, until it is full – and has grown 3-4 times in size.

Did you know?

Itching is actually caused by your dog’s reaction to the harvest mite’s digestive enzymes, and irritation levels vary from dog to dog.

You may notice your dog scratching within 3 to 6 hours of exposure to harvest mites – but the worst news is that the itch can continue for several weeks afterwards.

As well as rubbing, biting and scratching, harvest mites can lead to scurf and hair loss in some dogs. If the skin is damaged due to lots of scratching and nibbling, affected areas can also become infected with bacteria.

What do harvest mites look like?

Keep your eyes peeled for tiny reddish or orange larvae. These nasty little biters are around 0.2mm long, and are found all over 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. They’re equally at home in the countryside, in town gardens and in parks. In fact, there are local variations of the Trombiculidae family all over the world.

How to spot an infestation

It’s not easy to spot a harvest mite infestation, because the pesky pests are so small. If your spot your dog scratching, spread the hairs and look carefully at the skin – if there’s reddish or orange coloured ‘dust’ attached to the hairs or the skin, your pet might have harvest mites.

Preventing harvest mites

Because harvest mite larvae are only active during the day, you can reduce the risk of harvest mites by modifying your pet’s routine. Consider going for walkies early in the morning or after dusk. If possible, avoid long grasses and vegetation, and keep moving – the worst infestations tend to happen when pets (and people) are sitting or lying down in a sunny spot in the middle of the day!

Help with Harvest Mites

Unfortunately, there’s no licensed treatment for harvest mites available in the UK. However, some flea treatments are said to be effective – it’s best to get advice on which is most suitable for your dog from your vet.

If left untreated, the larvae will feed for a few days then drop off. Unfortunately though, 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


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A HUGE congratulations to Molly, who has passed all her exams and is now a qualified veterinary nurse.
Molly started with us in 2011 as a Sunday helper and after fitting right in was offered a full-time position as part of our nursing team while training to be a veterinary nurse. Well Done Molly! we are all proud of you!


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A brand new, first of it's kind concept in online puppy training.
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Big Tick Project - UK Tick Threat Map 

Last year, MSD Animal Health worked in collaboration with Bristol University to conduct what has now become the largest ever veterinary study of ticks and tick-borne disease in the UK. And, as the threat of ticks continues to grow rapidly across the UK

They have now created an interactive tick map

This interactive tick map, created with the results from last year’s Big Tick Project survey, is a great way to help keep your pet protected. Because even if you live in a low risk area, the widespread prevalence of ticks in the UK and the active nature of your pets puts them at risk of exposure. Use the map to search for the types of ticks and tick-borne diseases that are prevalent in different areas across the UK

UK Tick Threat Map.


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These newsletters are also freely available to download from our website and facebook page as PDF files: