Allergies

Storage Mites, A Common Cause of Skin Allergies in Dogs

Dog with healthy skin and coat

All dogs scratch and itch from time to time and there is nothing wrong with your dog having the odd scratch, provided that is all it is. Atopic dermatitis is an allergic and chronic skin reaction to specific allergens found in your dog’s environment. Dogs are more prone to atopic dermatitis than cats; however, both can suffer from atopic dermatitis. Symptoms include:

  • Frequently scratching of the ears and stomach
  • Excessive licking or chewing of the paws, abdomen and groin
  • Reddened ears
  • Reddened eye lids
  • Hair loss (if left untreated)
  • Black and deep pink pigmentation of the skin around the groin and armpits (if left untreated)
  • Bacterial infections (if left untreated)
  • Hot spots on the skin when you apply your hand to your dog’s coat.

It has been accepted for years that dust mites can be a cause of atopic dermatitis. In 2003 a study conducted by Wright State University in the USA confirmed, however, that sensitivity to storage mites can also be a common cause of atopic dermatitis in dogs1.

Storage mites are microscopic arthropods, which are attracted to dry foods, grains and cereals. The storage mite’s body as well as its faeces can trigger an allergic reaction in a dog causing atopic dermatitis.

Storage mites are not easy to eradicate from your dogs dry food once they have infested the food. They can tolerate exposure to heat and cold. Storage mites can be controlled by exposing them to temperatures below -18°C for at least 5 hours2. Accordingly, you could freeze your dry dog food before feeding it to your dog. This would not, however, necessarily solve the problem if the food is already infested with storage mites, as the dead mites faeces would still be in the food and would still be capable of causing an allergic reaction in your dog.

In 2008 a study was conducted to evaluate dry dog food for contamination with storage mites, and how storage time and conditions could influence the risk of contamination3. Ten different premium commercial dry dog foods, which had been formulated for dogs with skin disorders, were selected. On opening the bags one of the ten bags of dog food already contained storage mites. After five weeks of storage of these bags in conditions of approximately 23°C storage mites were detected in 9 out of 10 of the bags of food. These bags were not stored in airtight containers. This suggests that mites will infest even premium brands of dry dog food that have been specifically designed for dogs with skin disorders; particularly once they have been opened. 

Further, whilst most research focuses on the presence of storage mites in dry foods, it must be remembered that even wet dog foods that contain grain and cereal can be a suitable environment for storage mites. 

To avoid your dog having an allergic reaction to storage mites, or, to minimise the severity of an existing reaction we would recommend the following:

  • If your dog is on dry food, and you suspect, or, know that it has a storage mite allergy, it may be better to switch your dog to a grain free wet food diet. This may prevent, or, reduce the severity of any allergic reaction in the future. 
  • If it’s not possible to switch your dog’s food to a grain free wet food diet then ensure that you chose a grain and cereal free dry food.
  • Keep food and treats in a cool dry place.
  • Remember dog treats, which contain cereal and grains, can also attract storage mites, so chose a cereal and grain free treat for your dog and keep the treats in a sealed container.
  • Once opened store dried pet food in a sealed container.
  • Don’t buy dry dog food that is close to its sell by date, or, has passed its sell by date, and don’t keep dry dog food for more than 1 month after opening the bag. The longer you have the dry food, the more chance it will become infested with storage mites.
  • If you use plastic storage bins, or, sealed containers to store your dog’s food wash the container with hot water and washing-up liquid and dry them completely before you refill them.
  • Always wash your pet’s food and water bowl daily with hot water and washing-up liquid.
  • Always keep the floor area around your dog’s food and water bowls clean and vacuum the area regularly. 

If you suspect that your dog has atopic dermatitis then you should consult your vet, your vet will be able to confirm the diagnosis and confirm whether further treatment is required to alleviate any existing symptoms. 

Fact File

References

  • 1. Arlian AG et al, Serum immunoglobulin E against storage mites in dogs with atopic dermatitis, American Journal of Veterinary Research, 2003 January, 32-36
  • 2. Eaton & Kells Freeze Mortality Characteristics of the Mold Mite, Tyrophagus putrescentiae, a Significant Pest of Stored Products Journal of Economic Entomology 104 (4): 1423-1429. 2011
  • 3. Brazis et al, Evaluation of storage mite contamination of commercial dry dog food. Vet Dermatol 2008;19:209-2014

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