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Storage Mites - A Common Cause Of Skin Reactions In Dogs

A ginger and white shiba inu dog scratching its ear with its back leg while sitting on grass

All dogs have a good scratch from time to time, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that! However, if you notice that your dog is scratching more than usual, it might be worth looking into this behaviour further.

Atopic dermatitis is an allergic and chronic skin condition caused by allergens found in our dogs' environment. While dogs are more prone to atopic dermatitis than cats, both can suffer from the condition.

Symptoms Of Atopic Dermatitis In Dogs

  • Frequently scratching the ears and stomach

  • Excessive licking or chewing of the paws, abdomen and groin

  • Reddened ears

  • Reddened eyelids

  • 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

What Are Storage Mites?

Storage mites are a known cause of atopic dermatitis. These microscopic arthropods are attracted to dry foods, grains and cereals (so dry dog food can be especially appealing to them!). A storage mite's body and faeces can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs, in some cases causing atopic dermatitis.

Unfortunately, they are not easy to eradicate from our dogs' dry food once infested. Storage mites can tolerate exposure to heat and cold, although there is evidence to suggest that they cannot tolerate temperatures below -18°C. Freezing our dogs' dry food for a minimum of five hours before feeding could help reduce the risk of storage mite exposure. This would not, however, necessarily solve the problem if the food is already infested with storage mites, as their faeces would still be in the food and would still be capable of causing an allergic reaction.

How To Minimise The Effect Of Storage Mites In Dog Food

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 contamination. Ten different premium commercial dry dog foods (specifically formulated for dogs with skin disorders) were selected. On opening the bags, one out of ten bags already contained storage mites.

After five weeks of storage 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.

It's important to note that while most research focuses on the presence of storage mites in dry foods, even wet foods that contain grains and cereals can be a suitable environment for storage mites.

To help prevent our dogs from 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 they have a storage mite allergy, it may be better to switch to a grain-free wet food diet. This may help prevent or reduce the severity of an 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 choose a grain and cereal-free dry food.

  • Keep food and treats in a cool dry place.

  • Remember dog treats that contain cereal and grains can also attract storage mites, so choose 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, and don’t keep dry dog food for more than one 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.

  • 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, who will be able to confirm the diagnosis and advise on further treatment.

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Thoughtful Pets

Has your dog had problems with storage mites? We'd love to hear your experiences and encourage other pet owners to share their own advice! :)

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