Cheyletiella is a type of mite that can infect several species of animals including dogs. This mite may be tiny but it is more than just a small annoyance and shouldn't be ignored. Treatment and prevention are important parts of pet care so it's a good idea for dog owners to be familiar with cheyletiella.
What Is Cheyletiella in Dogs?
Cheyletiella is a small mite that infects dogs, cats, people, and rabbits. Five different species of this mite exist but since it is usually species specific, the Cheyletiella yasguri species typically infects dogs.
Cheyletiella mites bite dogs and live in the keratin layer of their skin instead of burrowing into it like some other mites do. This results in very flaky or dandruff-ridden skin which is why cheyletiella is also known as "walking dandruff." Some people may also refer to mite infestations as mange but there are several different types of mange with some being more concerning than others, such as sarcoptic mange.
Cheyletiella causes a dog to itch and scratch its skin in an attempt to get rid of the pest. Unfortunately though, this won't do anything but cause skin irritation and inflammation. Dry skin and excessive skin flaking, also known as dandruff, are the most obvious and classic symptoms of these external parasites. The flaking and dandruff can get so bad in dogs with cheyletiella that it looks like they have snow on their backs. For some dogs, you can even see the flakes of dandruff moving around as they are carried by the mites, hence the nickname "walking dandruff."
Causes of Cheyletiella in Dogs
Like other mites, cheyletiella infestations are caused when an infected dog comes into contact with another dog. This may occur if your dog plays with an infected dog at a dog park, is at a grooming facility where an infected dog was getting bathed, or even at the breeder's home where your puppy came from.
Diagnosing Cheyletiella in Dogs
These mites are not difficult to diagnose due to the obvious dandruff they produce and their appearance under a microscope. A sample of your dog's skin and/or fur will be taken and examined by your veterinarian to see for sure if cheyletiella is the culprit. Under the microscope your vet will see a tiny, yellowish to translucent, eight legged mite with hooks on the ends of the appendages near the mouth.
Treatment of Cheyletiella in Dogs
In order to kill the mites living on your dog's skin, your veterinarian may recommend a topical insecticide treatment. This may include regular medicated baths, dips, or a monthly application of a product known to be effective in killing cheyletiella. Not all medications that are known to kill other mites or even fleas are effective in killing this specific type of mite, though. Because of this, it is important that dog owners resist the urge to apply unnecessary chemicals or drugs on their pets without knowing whether or not they will work. Shaving the fur in the area of the infestation may also be recommended to help get rid of the mites.
How to Prevent Cheyletiella in Dogs
The best way to prevent a cheyletiella infestation from occurring on your dog is to keep it away from dogs that you do not know and grooming facilities and pet stores that are not clean. Regular bathing and the washing of your pet's bedding is also prudent for any pet owner in helping keep your dog clean and healthy.
If your dog has cheyletiella, be sure to keep it away from your other pets, follow your veterinarian's recommendations for treatment, and avoid excessive petting or handling of it to decrease the likelihood of you spreading it or getting infected yourself.
Is Cheyletiella Contagious?
Yes, cheyletiella is very contagious. Dogs can easily pass this mite to other dogs, cats or even rabbits by having direct contact with them. Humans can also be infected with cheyletiella but since they are not a direct host of Cheyletiella yasguri, the mite will typically die off on its own. Most people will only experience some itching and skin irritation but severe systemic symptoms have been documented.