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They come in many forms.  None of the forms are fun. Parasites can be easy to prevent, easy to test for and easy to treat- if caught soon enough. If not, these sometimes microscopic demons can wreak havoc on your companion- and can even pose a threat to humans of the house.

First, there are different types of parasites. Some are internal and some are external. Fleas, ticks, mites, and mange are all examples of external parasites. We will be discussing external parasites… internal parasites can be handled at another time- because there are too many to mention on just one post.

fleaThis is a flea. A flea is a tiny, wingless insect thriving in warm, humid climates. Depending on your geographic location, fleas may be a seasonal or year-round issue. Flea infestations in some areas can actually be severe enough to cause anemia and even death from secondary infection. Adult fleas are brown and about the size of a sesame seed. Since there may only be a few fleas on your pet, some people actually detect the “flea dirt” before they see fleas or signs of scratching. Flea dirt is tiny black specks on the animal, which is the flea’s fecal matter. Flea dirt is largely noticeable around the ears and neck of an animal, but as the infestation continues it can be seen everywhere. An adult female is capable of producing and dropping up to 50 eggs each day, so the best treatment for fleas, like any parasite, is prevention or early detection. Carpets, bedding, and furniture can become breeding grounds for flea eggs unless they are cleaned regularly.

Unfed tick on (L), engorged tick on (R)

Unfed tick on (L), engorged tick on (R)

Ticks. Ticks don’t have a fan in the world. Ticks find a host, bury their heads into the skin and suck as much blood as they can. Ticks are capable of spreading dangerous diseases such as Lyme or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Tick infestations severe enough can cause anemia and death, which has been known to happen to puppies of stray dogs in places like Arizona. Ticks are most often found on dogs on the ears, face, neck, between the toes and between the legs and body. On cats, ticks are generally found on the face and neck. To decrease the chance of you or your pet contracting a disease from a tick, treating your pet with tick preventative is important. Once tick season has begun, brushing your pet regularly will help you find ticks that may find their way onto him or her. Once you find a tick on your pet, immediate removal is key. When removing a tick, the best way to do so is by pulling it off with tweezers or a cotton ball. DO NOT USE RUBBING ALCOHOL, PETROLEUM JELLY, OR A HOT MATCH! These remedies can cause the tick to salivate into the open wound which will increase the possibility of infection.

MITES. There are 3 different types of mites that can call your pet “Home”…

ear-miteEar mites can cause serious problems if left untreated. They can cause permanent damage to the inner ear and ear canal, which control the balance of your pet. It may result in your pet having sores in and around the ears from constant scratching, secondary infections, or an inability to walk correctly or balance themselves. Treating ear mites is very simple. Either you can go to your vet & pay up to $20 for a bottle of medication- Or, use an ear dropper and plain ol’ mineral oil and take car of the mites almost immediately at home- without the $45 office visit.

scabiesThis is sarcoptic mange. Also known as “Scabies”. This mange affects dogs of all age, and are highly contagious. They can be transmitted through contact, bedding and even grooming tools. These mange mites burrow through the top layer of the dog’s skin and cause severe itching. This causes generalized hair loss, bleeding and crusting of the skin. Many times secondary skin infections develop because of the inflammation. People who come in contact with the skin of an infected dog may also develop a rash, and should seek medical attention immediately. Sarcoptic mange is the more difficult mange to cure. Dogs need medication and their environment must be cleaned and sanitized routinely. It is also a good idea to keep the animal isolated as much as possible from other animals and people until the mange is gone.

demodexDemodectic mange mites are largely a problem only in dogs. These mites are microscopic and not very contagious. It is possible, though, for a mother dog to pass them to her pups. These mites tend to be localized to areas of the body and tends to appear as patches of red, dry, scaly skin around the eyes, mouth, legs and trunk. Unlike other types of mange, demodectic mange can actually be an indication of an underlying medical problem, so it is important to seek the help of a licensed veterinarian. When caught early, the mange is generally cured with proper diet, exercise and medicated shampoo. However, if localized mange is allowed to spread to generalized (demodecosis), it can be difficult to treat and treatment may only actually result in controlling the condition instead of curing it.


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