Pyrethrin is an effective insecticide, and many bug-killing dog shampoos contain this ingredient. If using a pyrethrin-based shampoo, it's vital to follow directions and use the minimum amount required, otherwise a dog can suffer pyrethrin toxicity. Home remedies also can provide a more gentle option in the fight against mites.
Pyrethrin is an insecticide derived from the chrysanthemum plant. An efficient bug killer, it penetrates insects' nervous system, paralyzing and killing them if enough is applied. Cornell University's Pesticide Management Education Program says many pyrethrins carry labels warning of asthmatic episodes, headache, nausea and other symptoms. They note animals exposed to toxic amounts can suffer diarrhea, convulsions, paralysis, respiratory failure and death, and chronic exposure can cause liver, nervous system and immune system damage.
Several types of mites can attack dogs, embedding themselves in the skin or hair follicles. Mites cause a condition called mange, which results in itching, redness, bald spots and scabbing. Varieties of mange include demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange -- also called scabies. Mites can hatch, live and die on a dog, and also can survive for several days off the dog's body. Therefore, treatments should include the dog as well as the home, clothing, furniture, beds and collars.
The Center for Public Integrity released a report of 1,600 pyrethrin-related pet deaths between 2003 and 2008. These deaths were caused by brain damage, heart attacks and seizures. The Pet Place website says pyrethrin toxicity is often a result of applying more product than directed. Symptoms include drooling, tremors, lethargy, vomiting and seizures. Veterinary treatment is necessary, and may include hospitalization with IV fluids. All excess product must be removed from the dog's fur and skin with mild soap and cool water.
Home Remedies for Mites
Holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, says not all dogs need to endure strong chemical shampoos to treat mites. She recommends visiting a holistic vet and trying lime sulfur dips, topical neem and cedar oils. She says herbs like echinacea, olive leaf and colostrum can help strengthen the immune system, thereby warding off insect offenders. She also suggests omega-3 fatty acids to relieve itching, fight inflammation and improve skin condition. Dr. Becker says disinfecting shampoos like tea tree shampoo also can help.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.