External Parasites on Dogs

Parasites on the outside of your dog's body are easy to detect.

Even if you don't actually see the little creatures, you will see their effects on your
dog.

The most common external parasites that your dog will have to deal with are fleas,
ticks and mites.

Fleas
These tiny insects are blood suckers, and may drink enough blood to cause blood loss anemia. This can be fatal to puppies. In some sensitive dogs, fleas cause allergic reactions that lead to severe itching, scratching and skin trauma. They are also a source of tapeworm infection.

With all of these nasty effects, it's important that you keep your dog flea free as much as possible. Shampoos aren't effective enough for heavy burdens, so topical flea treatments such as Frontline or Advantage are a better option. Comfortis tablets are also very effective. No matter what you choose to treat your dog, make sure you tackle the environment where the fleas are breeding.

Ticks
There are a few species of ticks that can cause problems for dogs, some spread diseases such as Lyme disease while others cause paralysis which can ultimately kill a dog. The best way to control ticks is to search your dog daily and remove any that you find with either a tick remover or some fine tweezers.

A tick collar can help keep your dog free of ticks, as can Frontline spot on.

Mites
Two types of mite can affect dogs - Demodex and Sarcoptes.

Demodex lives in the hair follicles of all dogs. Pups pick up the mites from their mom while they are nursing, and usually these little parasites don't cause any problems at all. In some dogs, the mites can multiply and cause hair loss and scaly skin. In severe cases, the scaly skin becomes infected which is painful and itchy.

This little mite seems to adversely affect short coated breeds such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but it will cause skin disease in any breed with a reduced immune system.

Diagnosis involves your vet looking at skin scrapings under the microscope and seeing the mites. Treatment can be challenging, and can include oral medication, injectable drugs or dips. Antibiotics may be needed if there's a secondary infection. Because all dogs have Demodex in their hair follicles, there's no need to be concerned about any spread to your other canine family members.

The second mite that you can find in dogs is Sarcoptes. The adult female mites tunnel their way through the skin, making a burrow in which to lay their eggs. This causes an allergic reaction to the mites which is extremely itchy, and affected dogs will scratch and scratch until their skin is red. These mites will happily infect you, as well as any other dogs in your household, if you come in contact with an infected animal.

Like Demodex, an infestation with Sarcoptes can be treated with injections, tablets or dips. All dogs in the household should be treated. Antibiotics may be needed if the irritated skin has become infected. Also, because the itching is primarily due to an allergic reaction, anti-allergy medication such as cortisone can be helpful in making your dog more comfortable.