External Parasites

Fleas

Fleas are by far the most common external parasite of pets and they affect all species. While more often a problem in the warmer months of the year, they can occur at any time, particularly where pets have access to warm houses.

Treatment & Prevention

Treatment for fleas has improved immensely in recent years and the collars, sprays, washes and dips of the past have been replaced with drop-on preparations which are a lot less messy and a lot more effective. In most cases regular application of a drop-on preparation will be enough to keep your pet free from fleas, but where a heavy infestation occurs it may also be necessary to treat the pet’s environment.

Some dogs and cats develop quite severe allergy to fleas and this will need to be treated separately from getting rid of the fleas.

Ear Mites

As their name suggests ear mites or Otodectic Mites live in the ear canals of pets and are spread from one pet to another by physical contact. Thus if one pet in a household is affected it is likely that others are also.

Pets infected with ear mites are very itchy and if left untreated considerable debris can build up in the ear, which combined with scratching can lead to bacterial infections.

Treating Ear Mites

Ear mites are treated either with ear drops, injections or a combination of the two. Where the ears have become very dirty thorough ear cleaning may also be required, if necessary under sedation. If there is also bacterial infection present antibiotics may also be necessary.

Sarcoptic Mange

This is an extemely contagious condition which affects dogs and less often cats and is caused by a tiny mite called Sarcoptes Scabei. Intense itching is accompanied by redding and thickening of the skin and extensive hair loss. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between Sarcoptic Mange and certain types of skin allergies and a skin scraping may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating Sarcoptic Mange

Treatment may be with washes or dips, or may be given by injection. In all cases a rigorous approach is required to ensure that the infection is fully cleared up and treatment may need to be repeated several times. It may also be necessary to treat other pets in the household, even if they do not show visible signs of infection.

Demodectic Mange

This is much less common than Sarcoptic Mange and is cause by the Demodex mite, and affects dogs only. While the mite is present on many dogs, it only causes symptoms in a few and is often associated with an immune system problem, with certain breeds being particularly susceptible. It tends not to be very itchy and causes patchy hair loss, usually around the head and forelimbs. In severe cases it can become more extensive and lead to extensive hair loss and secondary infections. It is not contagious.

Treatment of Demodectic Mange

Washes or injections may be used in the treatment of Demodectic Mange with any secondary skin infections treated with antibiotics. Long courses of treatment are often required.

Ticks

Ticks are an occasional parasite of both dogs and cats which they pick up from the environment. While in warmer countries ticks can transmit some very serious disease, in Northern Ireland they are more of a nuisance than a serious threat to your pet’s health. Once ticks attach themselves to an animal they begin to suck blood and can become large and engorged so that they look a little like a blackcurrent.

Removing Ticks from your Pet

The best way to treat ticks is to remove them one by one from your pet’s skin. It is important when doing this to ensure that the tick has released its grip on the pet’s skin, since it is otherwise very easy to remove just the body, leaving the head behind as a cause of irritation and potential infection. You can do this by dabbing some alcohol on the tick, then removing it carefully with a tweezers.