Owner checking dogs ears for external parasites.

When you adopt a pet into your family, you generally are up for whatever comes along with taking care of your new ward. Most people, though, didn’t sign up to take care of any hitchhikers that might come along with their furry family members. Luckily, Volunteer Veterinary Hospital has you covered when it comes to identification, treatment, and prevention of the dreaded external parasite in pets.

All About Unwanted Guests

Our housepets are susceptible to several types of external parasites. While it may not be the most pleasant topic, knowing what to look for and a little bit about these potential problems can help pet owners put up their best defense.

Common examples of an external parasite include:

Fleas—A very common finding in Tennessee, fleas are perhaps the most common external parasite diagnosed in pets. If temperatures are around 50 degrees or above, fleas are active. They are small, about the size of the head of a pen, and often leave black dirt (feces) behind. Fleas can cause itching, irritation, skin infection, and hair loss. They also carry diseases such as Bartonella (cat scratch fever) and tapeworms.

Ticks—Depending on their life stage, ticks can range in size from about the size of a poppyseed to the size of a grape when engorged with blood. Ticks complete their life cycle by taking a blood meal from their host (i.e. your pet) and can spread diseases like Lyme disease and Ehrlichia.

Lice—Pets can be affected by lice, too. Thankfully, lice stick to their own species so you cannot contract lice from your pet, but that doesn’t make these clear to white tiny organisms any less skin-crawling. 

Skin mites—More commonly referred to as mange, demodex and sarcoptes skin mites are not visible to the naked eye. These mites make their homes on and in your pet’s skin and can cause itching, hair loss, and other irritation. There are also mites that make their homes inside your pet’s ears, feasting on ear wax. 

While many kinds of external pet parasites can be observed with a careful eye, that doesn’t mean that they are always easy to detect. Any time your pet is having skin problems like itching, hair loss, redness, bumps, or sores, you should make an appointment so that we can get started diagnosing and treating appropriately. 

Treating and Preventing the External Parasite

As gross as these parasites can be, most are very treatable (and often preventable, too!). Good parasite prevention should be a part of every pet wellness plan. 

Once an external parasite has been diagnosed, we will prescribe a specific treatment regimen. Thankfully, we have very safe and effective options available. 

Our expert staff can help to recommend appropriate treatment and prevention options for your pet and home. In many cases, it is important to treat all pets in the home to put a halt to the parasite life cycle completely. Secondary problems such as skin infections or diseases transmitted by the parasite may also need to be treated.

External parasites may give us the creepy crawlies, but they don’t have to be a part of pet ownership. Contact us today to get started on a quality parasite prevention program so that your family can enjoy your pet without any tag alongs.