External parasites that can affect your dog

Fleas, ticks and mites are the most frequently encountered external parasites by dogs. These parasites can be extremely irritating to your dog and can cause serious skin problems or even carry disease.

Fleas are the single most common cause of skin and coat problems in dogs. They do not transmit disease from dog to dog or from dog to man, but they can transmit tapeworms to your dog. The dog tapeworm spends a part of its life cycle in the dog flea and the dog is infected by eating the infected flea. A female flea can lay hundreds of eggs and these will become adults in less than three weeks (depending on the temperature and the amount of moisture). Fleas thrive when the weather is warm and humid. Your dog can pick up fleas wherever an infestation exists.

Some dogs develop an allergy to flea saliva and in some cases this can be dangerous. A dog’s constant scratching to rid itself of fleas can cause permanent hair loss and other skin problems. Young or small dogs with heavy flea infestations may become anemic.

Fleas are not the only menace that your dog has. Ticks are usually found clinging to vegetation and attach themselves to animals passing by. Tick bites can give your dog such infections as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted Fever. Ticks can also give these infections to you. You will most often find ticks around our dog’s neck, in the ears, in folds between the legs and the body, and between the toes. A Ticks bite can cause skin irritation.

It is very important to promptly remove ticks to lessen the chance of disease transmission from the tick to your pet. Remove the tick by carefully using tweezers to firmly grip the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible and gently pull the tick upward with a steady even pressure. Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick because its fluids may contain infectious organisms. Do not handle the tick with bare hands. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.

Another menace that your dog has is mites. Ear mites are common in young dogs and generally confine themselves to the ears and surrounding area of the ear. They are tiny and may only be seen with the aid of a microscope. Ear mites can cause intense irritation of the ear canal. Signs of your dog having ear mites include excessive head shaking and scratching of the ears. To treat ear mites thoroughly cleanse the ears and medicate. Your veterinarian can recommend an effective treatment plan.

Sarcoptic mange mites affect dogs of all ages, during any time of the year. Sarcoptic mange mites are highly contagious to other dogs and may be passed by close contact with infested animals. These mites burrow through the top layer of the dog’s skin and cause intense itching. Signs of Sarcoptic mange mites include generalized hair loss, skin rash and crusting. See your veterinarian for medication to kill the Sarcoptic manage mites.

There are hundreds of products on the market today to help you control the pests in your dog’s environment. Products range from oral medications that require a veterinarian’s prescription to collars, sprays, dips, shampoos, and powders that are available. The topical liquid products applied directly to the dog’s skin behind the neck are among the latest products for fighting fleas and ticks. Some of these products also help protect against mosquitoes (carriers of heartworms).

When using flea and tick products read the label carefully before use. If you don’t understand the wording, ask your veterinarian or call the manufacturer. It’s important that you follow the directions exactly.