Dogs and Cats: What Are the Common External Parasites
Parasites are common concerns for pet owners, and sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, these nasty little pests take up residence on our pets. When they do, they cause extreme discomfort, spread diseases, and inflict damage to the skin.
Use this guide between appointments to help you spot and remove external parasites.
Know the Signs
Persistent scratching is the tell-tale sign that our pets are itchy, and this warrants immediate inspection. Your pet may be itchy due to environmental allergies, or it may be because of external parasites.
Other signs to watch for include:
- Incessant licking (especially in cats)
- Chewing at the skin
- Head shaking or ear flicking
- Hair loss
- Red, irritated skin
Fleas are extremely common and must be eradicated quickly or they’ll find their way into your rugs and bedding.
You can perform a manual inspection by parting your pet’s fur, or use a flea comb and run it down your pet’s back, getting as close to the skin as possible. Adult fleas are reddish-brown, and the “dirt” they excrete (their feces) looks like pepper. You might also find tiny white eggs. Keep a bowl of soapy water close by while you’re combing, and douse the contents of the comb if you see signs of fleas.
Ticks are infamous for their ability to spread Lyme disease and other illnesses to both pets and humans, and Canada is home to nearly 40 species of these little blood-suckers.
To inspect your pet for ticks, run your fingers through your pet’s fur after any outdoor adventure, particularly if you live in a wooded area where wildlife is plentiful. A tick will feel like a bump. You can also use a comb or brush. Ticks look like tiny spiders with whitish, oval-shaped bodies that get larger when filled with blood.
If a tick is attached to your pet, contact us if you are hesitant to remove it yourself. Otherwise, remove it slowly and carefully with a pair of tweezers, put it in a storage bag, and bring it to Parkside Animal Hospital. It’s important that we identify the species of tick to determine your pet’s risk of disease.
Ear and Mange Mites
Ear mites are more common in cats, but dogs can become infected too. You might notice inflammation and scabs inside your cat’s ears. They are highly contagious, so if you have one pet with ear mites, you need to treat all of them. Ear mites warrant a doctor’s appointment. An accurate diagnosis requires that we take a swab from your pet’s ear and view it under a microscope.
Mange is a skin disease more commonly found in dogs but can impact cats as well. Mange is caused by infestations of teeny mites that burrow into the skin or hair follicles. Patches of hair loss, extreme itching, and crusty lesions are signs that your pet might have mange. Please contact us immediately for a proper diagnosis and recommended course of treatment.
Parasite control is a key component of any pet preventive care plan. Contact us at (705) 223-3404 for guidance regarding the safest, most effective parasite prevention for your individual pet.