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House dust mites (Dermatophagoides sp) exist throughout our environment. They are not a parasite and do not bite. They can be a major and common contributor to allergies in animals as well as humans. Approximately 50–60% of dogs with elevated allergy lgE test results to other allergens also exhibit elevated hypersensitivities to dust mites. The primary causes of house dust mite allergy
are protiens found in the feces and bodies of house dust mites.
Mites are commonly found in beds, carpet, sofas, pet bedding, and anywhere dust collects. The bedroom has been found to have the greatest concentration of mites. They prefer a house that is warm, unventilated and maintains a humidity level between 50–70%. They are sensitive to UV light and prefer darkness. Dust mites feed on dead skin cells of humans and animals as well as pollens, fungi and bacteria.
Immunotherapy can be effective in reducing clinical signs in patients with mite sensitivities. In addition, environmental control can prove useful in decreasing exposure to house dust mites, in turn minimizing the patient’s clinical signs while increasing the likelihood of a beneficial response to immunotherapy.
Although, it is virtually impossible to totally eliminate mites from the environment, steps can be taken to control their population. The following suggestions may prove useful in reducing exposure to house dust mites:
• Base floors such as hardwood, tile or vinyl are better than carpet but if carpet is used, low pile is preferable
• Wash bedding (human and pet) and dog toys at least weekly in HOT (130°F) water
• Avoid feather and wool bedding, use allergen-proof bed covers and encase box springs in vinyl or plastic covers
• Leather furniture as opposed to upholstered is preferable
• Remove clutter such as books, magazines, newspapers, knick-knacks, stuffed animals and wall hangings
• Change furnace and air conditioning filters regularly and use filters specifically made for allergen control
• Vacuum and dust frequently preferably while pet is outdoors and use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air
• (HEPA) filter or a double-layered micro filter bag
• Plants can also collect dust and should be removed
• Groom animals frequently