Spring has well and truly sprung. I must confess that I’ve been suffering from itchy feet syndrome looking forward to the summer ahead, thinking of holidays.
Spare a thought for our pets though, who get itchy feet for another reason entirely!
Enter the Berry bug. These little critters go by a number of names besides berry bugs: they will also answer to ‘harvest mite’, and ‘Chiggers’, while their Sunday name is ‘Trombicula autumnalis’.
So what are they?
These mites were traditionally prevalent during the harvest season in late autumn, but in central Scotland they appear to be alive and biting, right through from early spring.
The larvae live in soil and clamber onto the feet of unsuspecting cats and dogs.
The main symptom of these little creatures is intensely itchy feet.
It is more than just annoying for your pet, however.
The itching is so bad in some cases that the dog or cat will become lame, or chew his or her feet so badly that they will cause an infection.
Another thing to remember is that these mites can also bite humans, so watch out if you walk through fields or woodlands with bare ankles!
These things are pretty small. If you have a good eye, you might manage to see a pinhead-sized orange, wiggly thing.
In most cases however, you won’t manage to see them.
Their bite is very similar to the good old Scottish midge. They inject an enzyme into the skin so they can drink you or your pet’s juices, and it is this enzyme that causes the itch.
Are they preventable? In a word, yes.
If your pet suffers itchy feet at any point through the summer, do visit your vet because there is an anti-parasite spray which can be prescribed.
You would be instructed to apply this spray every two weeks through the summer and autumn, and it gets rid of the bugs.
There are other causes of itchy feet too of course, such as foot infections or allergies to plant life, all of which become more common in the summer.
Your vet will help you puzzle it out.