Red mites, also called tropical rat mites or Ornithonyssus bacoti, are mites that can infect pet mice. Here are three things mouse owners need to know about red mites.
Where do red mites come from?
Red mites live on wild rat species such as roof rats or brown rats. When these wild rats enter structures, they bring their mites with them. If wild rats are hiding in your attic or inside your walls, their mites may spread throughout your home and infest your pet mouse.
While wild rats are the preferred hosts of red mites, they can survive on a variety of different animals, including cats and dogs. If your dog or cat spends a lot of time outdoors, they could pick up mites and bring them into your home, and then your mouse could become infected as well.
What are the signs of red mite infestations?
The signs of red mite infestations will vary depending on how many mites are present. If the infestation is mild, your mouse might not show any symptoms. When you're petting them, you may see something that looks like sawdust in their fur: these are the mites. If the infestation is severe, you may see your mouse scratching itself often. They may also seem tired or weak, and in some cases, sudden death can even occur.
How can you get rid of red mites?
Getting rid of red mites involves multiple steps. Your vet will prescribe a topical medication like selamectin to kill the mites that are living on your mouse. Selamectin is designed for dogs and cats, but your vet will adjust the dose to make it safe for your mouse.
You'll also need to get rid of the mites in your mouse's cage and in the rest of your home. The cage can be sanitized with bleach or another appropriate cleaning product. Cage contents that can't be sanitized in this way, like paper bedding, should be thrown out and replaced.
The rest of your home should be treated with pyrethrin, an insecticide, to get rid of any remaining mites. This step is important because if you don't get rid of all the mites, your mouse will get infected again. Cotton balls that have been treated with pyrethrin can also be placed in your mouse's cage for added protection.
If you think your pet mouse is infected with red mites, take them to an animal hospital for treatment.