Much like fleas, the idea of dog mites can generate an instinctive desire to itch; and many types of dog mites are highly contagious.
That said, we don’t tend to see a huge prevalence of mite infestations in dogs in the UK, and there are actually several more different types of dog mites than most people know about. Some of the mites dogs can get can also be caught by humans; and knowing this if your dog is diagnosed is important.
With this in mind, this article will outline six type of dog mites found in the UK, and information on whether or not they’re contagious to humans too. Read on to learn more.
Sarcoptic mange mites are better known to many of us as scabies, and these are highly contagious. These are one of the two types of mange mites that dogs can catch and pass on, and the two behave very differently in terms of hosts and severity.
Sarcoptic mange or scabies in dogs is caused by the Sarcoptic scabiei mite, which burrows under the top layers of the skin and results in really intense itching that will drive your dog mad. Dogs with sarcoptic mange tend to be in very poor condition, as they tend to rub, bite, and scratch themselves to distraction, making their coat sparse and skin raw.
The even worse news? Scabies or sarcoptic mange is also highly contagious to people.
Demodetic mange mites are the second type of mange mites dogs can catch, and despite the fact this is also a type of mange, its impact and severity is very different to scabies. Demodetic mange in dogs is caused by a mite called demodex or red mange, and they attach to your dog’s coat follicles rather than burrowing deep under their skin, which means they’re not madly itchy like scabies mites.
This tends to result in symptoms like rough, thick skin, loss of fur, and a tendency to develop skin infections rather more easily than would otherwise be the case. Demodetic mange in dogs should not be left untreated, but if you had to choose between this and sarcoptic mange, demodetic mange is rather less unpleasant!
Demodetic mange cannot be caught by humans, but is contagious between dogs.
If you didn’t know that dogs could get nasal mites, you probably didn’t want to know either! There is only one type of nasal mite that can infest dogs, which is the Pneumonyssoides Caninum mite. They pass from dog to dog by nose-to-nose contact with ease, but stray mites can also wander off into the dog’s coat, and so be passed to another dog that happens to sniff that part of the coat and inhale the mites too.
There is also some limited evidence that dog fleas and lice can carry nasal mites and pass them on too, though we don’t know for certain if this is the case.
Nasal mites in dogs are highly contagious between dogs, but are nonetheless not hugely common in the UK. The other good news is that humans can’t catch canine nasal mites.
Ear mites in dogs or otodectic mange mites are perhaps the most common and well-known type of mites that dogs in the UK catch, and these are again very easily spread from dog to dog, and can be hard to eradicate as they burrow deep down into the dog’s ear.
Ear mites are very itchy and will make your dog paw at their ears a lot, scratch them, and rub their heads against things, to the point that they’re apt to make them quite sore.
Dogs can very easily pass on ear mites to other dogs and also cats; so if your dog has canine or feline housemates, it is best to assume they’re all infested and have your vet examine them all. You should also let your dog’s best friends at the dog park know too.
Humans can theoretically host canine ear mites, but this is very uncommon and not considered to be a huge threat.
Harvest mites in dogs appear in the environment, and look like tiny orange spiders, which you may be able to see if there’s a large group of them and they’re moving. To be clear, a “large group” would appear smaller than a centimetre, rather than appearing like an invading army!
These latch onto your dog when they come into contact with them outside, from contact with the soil in wooded and overgrown areas. They burrow under the skin (often but not exclusively of the paws) and make your dog really itchy, causing them to bite and scratch to distraction.
Harvest mites appear at any point between July and November in the UK, depending on the weather conditions. While they are visible if tiny, the impact and irritation they cause to dogs can continue for a couple of weeks after the mites have moved on, which can make it hard to diagnose the issue.
However, they are reasonably easily treated when present, and your vet may also use medications to reduce the itching.
People can pick up harvest mites too and are apt to find them just as irritating as dogs, but you will almost certainly pick them up from the environment in the same way that your dog will, rather than getting them from your dog himself.
Finally, what’s worse than dandruff? Sentient dandruff! Walking dandruff in dogs is caused by another mite, which appear as tiny white specks that are fairly mobile, hence the name.
This is the Cheyletiella yasguri mite, and is highly contagious between dogs, and can also be passed to and from dogs and cats. As is the case with ear mites, if one dog has walking dandruff, assume his canine and feline housemates and potentially dog park pals are infested too.
Walking dandruff in dogs tends to be self-limiting, as the mites only have a life cycle of three weeks, but they can live for up to 10 days in the environment. On the plus side, they’re easy to treat using most effective dog flea treatments.
Some dogs with walking dandruff will be very itchy and may develop scaly skin, but others may not appear irritated at all.
Unfortunately, humans can catch walking dandruff from dogs (and cats) too, so if your pets are infected, you’re advised to book a doctor’s appointment for yourself to get checked out too.