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Can Mites Transfer From Pets to Humans?


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Demodex Canis image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Many 'authorities' say that mites on pets do not transfer to humans [1], but this is another example of the 'butterfly effect' in rosacea. While generally speaking mites on pets don't transfer to humans, we demonstrate with references that this myth is officially debunked. 


Most clinical papers on rosacea refer to only two demodex mite species found in humans, demodex folliculorum and demodex brevis. For example, Wired magazine in its article on demodex reports, "Our network of skin caverns offers food and shelter to two different species of mites: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis." However, there are a large range of demodex mite species, one source says, "approximately 50,000 species have been described." [2] 

In dogs there are at least three types of demodex, Demodex canis, D. injai and D. cornei. [3] There are different species of mites living on birds and rodents. In fact, just about all mammals have some species of demodex mites living on them. Can any of these mites, especially on pets transfer to humans? 

The answer is yes. In rare cases this happens with various mites. In the case of scabies it is common.  

"Humans occasionally become infested with zoonotic mites, which can cause discomfort and dermatitis. A few species can transmit diseases, such as human vesicular rickettsiosis. Mites from animals do not usually survive for very long on humans, and most zoonotic infestations are self-limiting...Some mites do not cause any apparent ill effects unless their population becomes unusually large. Other species, such as Sarcoptes scabiei, can result in clinical signs even when only a few mites are present...However, humans can be infested transiently by the scabies mites of a wide variety of domesticated and exotic animals, as well as by Notoedres cati. and Trixacarus caviae....Myobia musculi, Radfordia affinis and Radfordia ensifera (family Myobiidae) affect rodents. The eggs of myobiid mites are usually attached to the base of the hair on the host. These mites feed on tissue fluids, but can also feed on blood from capillaries at the surface of the skin. They are readily transmitted between hosts, and may also infest cats, dogs and people...Human infestations with mites such as Cheyletiella and Sarcoptes scabiei are reported occasionally. The transmission rate for S scabiei var canis from dogs to people is estimated to be 10-50%, and close, prolonged skin contact is the most important route of transmission. Cheyletiella mites from animals are also reported to bite humans readily; however, clinical signs may not be common, or possibly not recognized." [2]

"A twenty-year-old girl student who feeds a Miniature Pinscher crossbred dog in her house for a while noticed common itchy papulopustular lesions, incrustation and some alopecic loci in her dog and admitted to Selçuk University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Parasitology. Itchy papules and pustules were also observed in dog's owner face and arm about three or four weeks later. Skin scrapings and hair samples were taken from the patient and the dog and examined with light microscope. Adult and egg forms of Demodex spp. were detected in both patient and dog specimens in microscopic examination." [4]

"Mange is a skin disease that is caused by two different species of mites. Sarcoptic mange is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei. Demodectic mange can be caused by several mites of the Demodex family. Sarcoptic mange is extremely itchy and highly contagious to other animals and humans. Demodectic mange is not as itchy, and while it can be transmitted to other dogs, it is not contagious to humans or cats." [5]

"Scabies, an infestation by the itch or scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, remains a major public health problem worldwide and a common cause of PUO in returning travelers. The worldwide prevalence of scabies has been estimated to be about 300 million cases/y.  Although more often associated with crowding, homelessness, institutionalization, and immunodeficiency, scabies occurs worldwide in both sexes, at all ages, and among all ethnic and socioeconomic groups." [6]

"Sarcoptes scabiei or the itch mite is a parasitic mite (an arthropod) that burrows into skin and causes scabies. The mite is found in all parts of the world. Humans are not the only mammals that can become infected. Other mammals, such as wild and domesticated dogs and cats (in which it is one cause of mange) as well as ungulates, wild boars, bovids, wombats, koalas, and great apes are affected." Wikipedia

"Although host specific cross infections between humans and animals have been rarely reported, D. canis was determined to be more transmissible across species than the other Demodex mites as indicated in the literature. As a result, it is necessary and important to keep in mind about Demodex spp. infestation in patients with skin complaints and pet feeding." [7]

"Two different mange mites cause skin disease in dogs. Although both share certain characteristics, it is important not to confuse the two types of mange, because they have different causes and treatments, and one can be passed to humans. The two types are demodectic mange, caused by the mite Demodex canis and sometimes just called demodex, and sarcoptic mange, caused by infestation of the mite Sarcoptes scabiei and sometimes called scabies...The sarcoptic mange mite can be transmitted to humans who come into contact with a dog infested with sarcoptes." [7]

"The parasite [Sarcoptes scabiei] can be transmitted from dog to dog and can pass from dogs to humans, although it doesn’t thrive on non-canine hosts." [8]

"Although dogs and humans live in close contact, there have beenfew reports suggesting transmission of dog mites to their own-ers, and to our knowledge, none that definitively confirmed that the mites found on the human patient were D. canis and not D. folliculorum or D. brevis. However, the patients involved were younger than would be expected for detectable Demodex presence. In addition, D. canis was found to survive and repro-duce in dog skin engrafted onto SCID mice, but did not spreadto the surrounding mouse skin. [9]

Generally speaking it is rare for humans to contact mites from pets, but it can happen as the above sources cited indicate. Usually, the only species of demodex mites found on humans are demodex folliculorum and demodex brevis, but in some rare cases cited above, other mite species are found, with the exception of scabies, as noted above, which effects millions of humans.  

Anecdotal Evidence
This thread started by soapbubble1 is anecdotal evidence establishing demodectic transfer in humans. If you have further anecdotal evidence why not find the reply button and post your experience. 

What is the difference between demodex, dust mites, bed bugs and scabies?

Demodex Update

Why do demodex like human skin?

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End Notes

[1] There are several examples of this, for example the Miami Herald has an an article entitled, Mange mites not transmittable between dogs and humans.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has an article on mites and states, "Most mites never come in contact with humans, but some that do can affect a person’s health." The article does not mention demodex mites. 
Mites Affecting Humans

"No, demodectic mange is not contagious to other animals or humans."
Demodectic Mange in Dogs, Ernest Ward, DVM; Updated by Amy Panning, DVM, VCA Hospitals

"Additionally, demodex mites found on cats and dogs do not spread to humans."
Feline Demodex, Catherine Barnette, DVM, VCA Hospitals  

[2] Acariasis, Mange and Other Mite Infestations, June 2012
The Center for Food Security and Public Health, Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University

[3] Demodex canis, Arachnida, Canine Parasites and Parasitic Diseases, Science Direct 

[4] Mikrobiyol Bul. 2018 Apr;52(2):214-220. doi: 10.5578/mb.66410.
[A dog related Demodex spp. infestation in a student: a rare Demodex case].
Esenkaya Taşbent F, Dik B.

[5] Mange in Dogs
a.k.a. Sarcoptic mange, Demodectic mange, scabies, etc

[6] Journal of Travel Medicine, Volume 17, Issue 1, 1 January 2010, Pages 21–31,
Mite‐Transmitted Dermatoses and Infectious Diseases in Returning Travelers 
James H. Diaz, MD, MPH&TM, Dr PH

[7] Dog mange called scabies can transfer to humans, Dr. Wes Borgman, Orlando Sentinel

[8] Mange: What You Need to Know, Mar Bovsun, American Kennel Club

[9] Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology [Full Text]
Demodex: a skin resident in man and his best friend
R. Foley, P. Kelly, S. Gatault, F. Powell

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  • 4 weeks later...

I get a itchy skin and hives during the summer from my cat I got it so bad I had to take steriods to help clear up my skin. I dont get it from any other cats just him. I wont get rid of him he means too much to me so I tolerate it. Do you think he has these mites or?

Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk

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The general consensus is that the mites on cats or dogs are a different species, however, as pointed out above, scabies and other demodex can infect a human from a pet. There should be more research on this but as it stands now the data shows that the species of mites on humans are different than on pets, generally speaking. Each mammal usually has its own species of demodex mites. The point of this post is that since we do know that mites can travel from pets to humans, there is a possibility that demodex do indeed infect humans from pets. No one certainly wants to be infected with scabies and avoids any contact with an infected human or pet.  

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  • Guide changed the title to Can Mites Transfer From Pets to Humans?

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