Are Mites Worse At Night Dogs?

What are Mites?

Mites are tiny arachnids that feed on the dead skin cells, oil secretions, and blood of dogs. There are several different species of mites that can affect dogs:

  • Demodex mites are naturally occurring mites that live in dog hair follicles. They generally don’t cause problems unless the dog has a weakened immune system.
  • Sarcoptic mange mites burrow into the skin and cause intense itching and skin infections. This contagious mite is passed between dogs and other animals.
  • Otodectic mange mites live in the ears and are a common cause of ear infections in dogs.
  • Cheyletiella mites walk along the skin and cause dandruff, scaling, and itching. These mites are contagious between dogs and cats.

Mites can be found all over a dog’s body, but often congregate in folds of skin, armpits, groin area, and ears where there is less fur. Heavy mite infestations lead to hair loss, redness, scabs, and intense itching. Some mites like Sarcoptes are highly contagious to other dogs and humans.

Mite Activity at Night

Mites tend to become more active and mobile at night for a few key reasons:

One major factor is that mites prefer darkness and shy away from light. Being more active at night allows them to move around and feed while avoiding bright daylight. According to research from Bangor University and the University of Reading, light causes discomfort and disruption to many species of mites [1].

Another reason is that nighttime allows mites to feed without being detected or interrupted. Mites feed on skin cells, oils, and debris. They crawl out of follicles at night to find new feeding grounds and mating opportunities without being noticed or brushed off the host [1].

Mites tend to take blood meals at night as well. Species like the tropical rat mite bite hosts mainly at night to ingest blood [2]. Their nighttime feeding is less likely to disturb or alert hosts.

Additionally, mites can detect the rise in body heat that occurs when hosts are asleep or still, signaling an optimal time to become active and feed [3].

In summary, mites capitalize on the darkness, stillness, and warmth at night to search for food and mates while avoiding detection from hosts.

Signs of Mites in Dogs

There are several signs that may indicate your dog has a mite infestation:

Itching and Scratching: One of the most common signs of mites is intense itching, scratching and irritation. Mites burrow into the skin and cause inflammation, leading dogs to scratch, lick and bite at their skin constantly in an effort to relieve the itchiness.

Hair Loss: Some types of mites like demodectic mange lead to hair loss, either in small patches or over larger areas of the body. The hair loss is caused by the mites burrowing into hair follicles.

Redness and Irritation: As mites tunnel into the skin, they cause irritation, redness, papules and scabbing. Dogs may develop a rash or red blotches as their skin reacts to the mite infestation.

Crusty Skin and Scabs: The intense itching and scratching caused by mites can lead to wounds, sores and scabs on the skin. As these heal, they can create crusty skin, scabs and lesions.

Risk Factors

Certain dogs are more prone to developing mite infestations than others. The main risk factors include:

  • Young dogs – Puppies under 18 months old are more susceptible as their immune systems are still developing. Demodex mites in particular tend to occur in puppies.
  • Dogs with allergies – Allergies can cause skin irritation and damage the skin barrier, allowing mites to take hold more easily.
  • Dogs with compromised immune systems – Any illness or medical condition that weakens the immune system makes dogs more vulnerable to mites. This includes chronic conditions as well as medications like steroids that suppress the immune system.

Mite infestations are not strictly limited to higher risk dogs, but these groups tend to suffer from more severe and persistent cases. Keeping their skin and coats healthy is important to reduce susceptibility.

Diagnosing Mites

If you suspect your dog may have mites, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from your veterinarian. Vets have multiple methods for detecting mites:

Vet Examination – The vet will first do a thorough physical exam of your dog’s skin, looking for signs of mites like hair loss, redness, and skin irritation. Areas around the ears, elbows, and hindquarters are common mite hotspots. The vet will look for mites or eggs under a microscope.

Skin Scraping Test – One of the most common diagnostic techniques is skin scraping. The vet uses a scalpel blade to gently scrape the surface of the skin onto a microscope slide. This lets the vet examine the sample for any mites, eggs, or mite feces which can confirm their presence [1]. Skin scraping is usually quick and painless for the dog.

Treating Mites in Dogs

There are several effective treatment options for getting rid of mites in dogs. Some common treatments prescribed by vets include:

Medicated dips – These specialized dips contain insecticides that kill mites. The medication is formulated to adhere to the dog’s skin and coat in order to kill any remaining mites after dipping. Mitaban is one common prescribed dip used to treat mange. It is important to follow safety precautions when dipping dogs in these insecticidal solutions.

Oral medications – Medications like ivermectin, milbemycin oxime, and moxidectin can be prescribed in pill form to kill mites systemically. It is important to give the medication exactly as directed by your vet. These oral treatments may need to be given regularly for several weeks to fully clear an infestation.

Topical treatments – Spot-on or topical solutions like selamectin, moxidectin, and sarolaner can be very effective at killing mites. These monthly preventatives are applied to the skin on the back of the neck and spread over the body via the oils in the skin and coat. This provides ongoing protection against reinfestation. (Source)

Preventing Mites

There are several steps dog owners can take to help prevent mites in dogs:

Regular grooming and brushing can help keep mites at bay. Use a fine-tooth comb to brush your dog regularly, which will remove dead skin cells and dirt where mites like to hide. Bathing your dog weekly with an anti-parasitic shampoo containing ingredients like oatmeal, aloe, neem oil, or tea tree oil can help repel mites.

Keeping your dog’s surroundings clean is also important. This includes their bedding area, crates, toys, flooring, and yard space. Wash your dog’s bedding and fabric toys frequently using hot water. Vacuum and mop hard floors regularly. Also try to keep grass short and remove sticks/debris from the yard where mites could be hiding.

Lastly, avoid direct contact with dogs who are infected with mites or show signs of skin irritation. While socialization is important, interacting with unknown dogs may increase exposure risk. Speak to your vet about safe socialization practices for puppies.

Mitigating Nighttime Discomfort

While mites are active day and night, they can cause significant itching and discomfort for dogs at night while they try to sleep. There are some steps you can take to help relieve your dog’s symptoms overnight.

Your veterinarian may prescribe evening doses ofanti-parasitic medications like ivermectin or milbemycin to kill mites and provide relief at night. Follow your vet’s dosage instructions carefully. These medications are most effective when given consistently ([1]).

Applying a topical anti-itch spray formulated for dogs before bedtime can also help prevent scratching and discomfort at night. Sprays with natural ingredients like aloe, oatmeal, and tea tree oil may help soothe irritated skin. Just be sure to consult your vet first and closely monitor your dog’s response.

While medications and sprays can provide some relief at night, addressing the underlying mite infestation through veterinary treatment is still crucial. Follow your vet’s guidance on continuing topical and/or oral medications as prescribed until the infestation is fully resolved.

When to See the Vet

If your dog is showing signs of a mite infestation, it’s important to take them to the vet. Some key signs that warrant a veterinary visit include:

– Persistent itching – Excessive scratching and biting at their skin is a common sign of mites. If the itching persists for more than a few days, seek veterinary care.

– Hair loss/skin irritation – Patches of hair loss and reddened, irritated skin can indicate a mite infestation. This can lead to secondary infections that require treatment.

– Signs of infection – Open sores, pustules, a foul odor, and discharge signal that the skin is infected. This requires prescription medication to clear up.

While home remedies may provide temporary relief, seeing the vet is crucial for properly diagnosing and treating a mite infestation. Your vet can take skin scrapings and examine them under a microscope to identify the type of mite. They will then recommend an effective acaricide or medicated bath/dip to kill the mites and provide medications if secondary infections are present. Don’t delay – treating mites quickly can help prevent their spread and minimize discomfort for your dog. For severe infestations, follow-up vet visits may be needed to ensure the mites are fully eliminated.


Mite Prevention Tips

Here are some recommended tips for preventing mites in dogs:

  • Vacuum regularly using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove dust and dander where mites lurk [1]
  • Wash your dog’s bedding at least weekly in hot water to kill mites [2]
  • Use covers for dog beds and pillows that can be washed regularly
  • Limit stuffed toys which can harbor mites – wash toys weekly
  • Bathe your dog regularly to remove dead skin cells that mites feed on
  • Consider using essential oils like tea tree, lavender, or eucalyptus which may help repel mites
  • Use flea/tick medication prescribed by your vet to control mites

To help dogs feel more comfortable at night:

  • Keep bedrooms off limits to pets to limit mite exposure during sleep
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier to ease dry skin which can itch due to mites
  • Talk to your vet about anti-itch medication or supplements
  • Use a soft, washable dog bed and wash bedding regularly
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