Cheyletiella are mites that can infect several species of animals, including dogs. These parasites cause itching, and when dogs scratch or chew their skin, damage and secondary infections can occur. Cheyletiella are contagious to other animals, and they can even live on humans for limited time periods, so knowing how to eliminate them is a top priority in affected households.
What Are Cheyletiella?
Cheyletiella are small mites that infect dogs, cats, rabbits, and people. Five different species of this type of mite exist, but since each is usually host species-specific, Cheyletiella yasguri is the only species that infects dogs. An infection of cheyletiella mites is referred to as cheyletiellosis.
Symptoms of Cheyletiella in Dogs
Cheyletiella mites bite dogs and live in the keratin layer of their skin instead of burrowing into it as some other mites do. Symptoms of infestation include:
Cheyletiella cause a dog to itch and scratch its skin in an attempt to get rid of the pest. Unfortunately, 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 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
Cheyletiella infestations are caused by one thing:
- A dog comes into contact with an infected dog.
This may occur if a dog interacts with an infected dog at a dog park, grooming facility, 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 confirm the presence or absence of cheyletiella. If they are present, your vet will see a tiny, yellowish to translucent, eight-legged mite with hooks on the ends of the appendages near the mouth.
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, so resist the urge to apply unnecessary chemicals or drugs without knowing whether or not they will work.
In severe cases, shaving the fur in the area of the infestation may also be recommended to help get rid of the mites.
Prognosis for Dogs with Cheyletiella
Cheyletiella mites are not life-threatening and can be eradicated with persistent treatment. Concurrent treatment of other pets and diligent cleaning of the environment are imperative to rid a household of these mites.
How to Prevent Cheyletiella in Dogs
Regular bathing and the washing of your pet's bedding is prudent for any pet owner in helping keep your dog clean and healthy. If your dog does contract cheyletiella, follow your veterinarian's recommendations for treatment, and avoid excessive petting or handling during the treatment period to decrease the likelihood of you spreading the infection or getting infected yourself.
Are Cheyletiella Contagious?
Cheyletiella are very contagious. Dogs can easily pass these mites to other dogs, cats, or even rabbits by having direct contact with them. Humans can also be infected with cheyletiella, but since we are not direct hosts of Cheyletiella yasguri, the mites will typically die off on their own within a few weeks. Most people will only experience some itching and skin irritation, but rare systemic infections have been documented.