When most pet owners think of parasites, they think of fleas, worms and maybe ticks. There is another parasite of which you need to be aware: cheyletiella mites. Mites of this genus cause a condition known as walking dandruff in which the skin becomes dry and flaky and appears to be moving as the mites move across it.
How Cheyletiellosis is Transmitted
Both dogs and cats can develop walking dandruff. The condition can even be passed to humans. It is spread from one animal to the next through both direct and indirect contact. That means that if a brush is used on an animal with walking dandruff and then later on a non-infected animal, that non-infected animal is likely to become infected. Your pet may become infected when mingling with another pet in the park, after a visit to the groomer, or after a stay at a kennel.
The Dangers of Cheyletiellosis
The primary problem caused by the mites is itchy, flaky skin. Unfortunately, this can have ugly consequences if left untreated. Some pets become so itchy that they rub and over-groom themselves until their skin is raw and bleeding. If these sores become infected, the situation could possible become life-threatening. Cats and dogs also tend to become irritable when their skin is itchy and sore, and this could lead them to snap at their owners or other people they come into contact with.
Treating walking dandruff is not easy, but the sooner you begin treatment, the better the outcome will be. Call your veterinarian as soon as you begin to suspect that your dog or cat may have this condition. The vet can prescribe a topical shampoo, or in severe cases, an oral medication, to kill the mites.
If one animal in your household has walking dandruff, all animals must be treated. Since the parasites are so easily spread, there is a good chance your other pets are at the beginning stages of an infestation already.
The mites that cause walking dandruff can live for up to 10 days away from a host. For this reason, your treatment plan must also include thoroughly laundering bedding, rugs, grooming tools and clothing to kill the mites. Your vet, one from a local animal clinic, may recommend a insecticide wash to use on these items. At the very least, wash them several times with hot water, which should kill the mites.
Walking dandruff is certainly an annoyance. If you are on the lookout for this condition, however, you won’t be blindsided if your pet does become infected. Keep an especially vigilant eye out for symptoms of walking dandruff if your pet spends a lot of time with other animals, since this is how the parasites are spread.