External parasites or ectoparasites is a term we use for anything living outside of your pet’s body. This can include mites, lice, ticks, fleas as well as flying insects. There are many ways to treat and prevent these parasites. Treatments can vary on how you give them, how often they are needed, how long the treatment lasts and the cover over different parasites for your pet. It is well worth discussing with your vet what the best option is for your individual pet’s needs.
Scabies or sarcoptic mange is caused by a burrowing mite which can cause intense itching and is highly contagious. Normally we see scabs, self-trauma from pets itching and hair loss. Another burrowing mite is called Demodex which affects hair follicles and causes hair loss. This parasite lives on animals without causing problems most of the time. However if an animal is unwell or is weaker (e.g. growing or getting old) then the mites can get out of hand and cause hair loss, itching, redness and thickening of the skin.
Cheyletiella is a surface mite and is often known as walking dandruff. This mite can affects multiple species including rabbits and guinea pigs. You may see scurf and dandruff building up or the hair may fall out. Another common surface mite is the ear mite which is also known as Otodectes. These mites can be seen as small white dots moving round in the pet’s ear canal and cause excessive wax build up.
Whilst ticks are easily treated and can be removed with special tick removal hooks, they can transmit more serious diseases. Lyme’s Disease, Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis are all passed on by ticks. Lyme’s disease can cause flu like symptoms with a bull’s eye mark on around the site of the tick bite. Ehrlichia and Babesia both affect the blood cells. If you find ticks on your pet, it is always worth getting them checked over by your vet to ensure correct removal of the tick and that there are no ongoing problems.
Bees/wasps can still cause problems for our animals with stings and sometimes this can result in severe swellings. If you suspect your pet has been stung it is best to phone your vet for advice and they may advise a consultation and medication to be administered. Always remember fly prevention treatments in rabbits and regularly handling and checks in all small animals. Flystrike is still sadly relatively common and the best prevention of this disease is achieved by frequent checking along with an appropriate insecticidal treatment.
General Advice for External Parasites
We hope you have found this information useful. Next week we focus on internal parasites for your pets.