External Parasites

Ear Mites
These mites are easily spread by direct contact and can be airborne. They are very common in dogs and cats, especially those that stay outdoors. The common symptoms are head shaking, scratching behind the ears - sometimes causing bleeding - an accumulation of dark brown ear wax, and sometimes redness and swelling inside the ear.

The mites are killed by pyrethrins and other mitocides. An ear mite infestation can lead to a bacterial ear infection. Have your pet checked by a veterinarian if you think it has ear mites.

Fleas
These ever-present blood-sucking pests tend to cause itchiness and hair loss, especially in those animals that develop an allergic sensitivity to them. They usually cause a low mortality, except in young animals where a blood loss anemia can occur.

They are controlled by repeated treatment of the skin, and the environment where the animal stays, with pyrethrins, organophosphates, carbamates, and others. Fleas carry the larvae for tapeworms and pass it to their hosts.

Mange
There are 2 forms of Mange:
Sarcoptic Mange is caused by a microscopic parasite, the scabies mite, which burrows into the skin causing intense itchiness, scaly skin, hair loss, red and cracked skin. This disease is rarely fatal but may cause extreme suffering. This type of mange is highly contagious, even to humans. It is treated with lindane, ivermectin, or a dip prescribed by your veterinarian. It is relatively easy to cure when treated as soon as signs are noticed.

Demodectic Mange is not contagious to other pets or humans. The mite responsible for this form is present in all dog hair follicles. When the opportunity arises, from stress or immunosuppression, these mites overpopulate, pushing out the hair. Hair loss most commonly occurs around the eyes, muzzle and paws. This can become a serious disease if a secondary bacterial infection develops. Dogs can die from bacteria infecting the blood stream. This disease has also been linked as a hereditary problem. If treatment is needed, it is extensive and costly, involving several dips until every mite is eliminated. You must have your animal treated by a veterinarian if it has demodectic mange.

Ringworm
This moderately contagious disease is spread by skin contact. It is actually a fungus infection, not a worm. The common symptoms are a rough circular patch of hair loss, most often on the head, ears, and paws. Some cats are carriers with no visible signs.

General cleanliness can prevent infection. If you notice hair loss on your pet, have the pet checked by the veterinarian. Ringworm is controlled with a fungicide.

Ticks
These blood-sucking parasites are common on outdoor animals. Ticks are often seen engorged and embedded in the skin, where they tend to cause swelling and redness. They are controlled much the same as fleas. Ticks carry many diseases transmissable to your pet and to YOU. They can cause paralysis of your pet if not removed, which can be reversed by veterinary treatment. Ticks carry Lyme Disease, transmissable to humans. They also carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, also transmissable to humans, which is no longer confined to the Rocky Mountain Areas. It is now found nationwide.

How to Safely Remove Ticks: Active or Passive Removal?
  • Passive removal means that no force is used whatsoever. The tick may be coated with vaseline, nail polish, or alcohol.
  • Active removal means that the tick is pulled out with fingers or tweezers.
Dr. Needham, PhD of Ohio State University feels there is no merit to passive removal. Ticks are very difficult to suffocate.

Ticks may be removed by hand if necessary. When doing so, protect the hands with rubber gloves, paper towels, or tissue. Because of the infectious agents in the tick that can enter the body through mucous membranes, (areas in the mouth, nose, and eyes) hands should be washed after pulling ticks from pets, children, or yourself. The most effective, and wisest method, is to use tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upward with a gentle and even pressure. Do not twist or jerk as this may cause the head of the tick to be left in the skin, causing serious illness to your pet.