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External Parasites – Fleas & Ticks

External Parasites - Fleas & Ticks

Parasites that live outside the body are external parasites. Several parasites can affect dogs and cats, including fleas, lice, mites, and ticks, among others.


Fleas are wingless insects with long jumps. They subsist on draining your pet’s blood, but they can also bite humans. Fleas can be a seasonal or year-round nuisance depending on your climate. Fleas flourish in warm and humid climates. Fleas can be picked up by your pet anywhere there is an infestation, which is typically in locations frequented by other cats and dogs. Fleas have also been linked to blood-borne infections which can be very serious such as typhus and cat scratch disease.

It can transmit diseases to you and your family like:

  • Lyme disease 
  • Tapeworms
  • Mange
  • Ringworm

You may notice your pet scratching or biting themselves excessively, as well as reddish skin, hair loss, and flea droppings on their coat. Scratching can cause open wounds and infections. Adult fleas are dark brown, about the size of a sesame seed, and can migrate quickly across your pet’s skin. When the flea develops, it spends almost all of its time on your pet. Some fleas contain tapeworms and can infect your pet as well.

Female fleas begin laying eggs 24 hours after selecting your pet as a host and can deposit up to 50 eggs every day. These eggs fall off your pet and land on the floor, furniture, including your pet’s bed, or any other indoor or outdoor area where your pet happens to be. The eggs develop into tiny, worm-like larvae that burrow into carpets, under furniture, or into the soil before spinning a cocoon. Cocooned flea pupae can remain latent (inactive) for weeks before emerging as adults ready to infest (or re-infest) your pet. As a result, depending on environmental factors such as temperature and humidity, flea life cycles can last anywhere from 12 days to 6 months.

Diagnosis, Risks, and Consequences

You may not realize your pet has fleas until their number grows to the point where your pet is uncomfortable. Flea symptoms range from minor redness to severe itching, which can result in open sores and skin infections (“hotspots”). The black flea droppings left on your pet’s coat are one of the first things you may notice on a flea-infested pet. Fleas may not be visible, yet they can still be found on your pet and in the environment. Because fleas are just about 1-2 millimeters long, they might be difficult to detect, but there are numerous techniques to check for fleas on your dog, including:

  • Examine your dog’s neck, abdomen, and hindquarters for red, inflamed skin.
  • To get a good look at your dog’s skin, comb his or her hair from back to front. Flea combs are sold in pet stores, but any fine-toothed comb will function.
  • Fleas can be red or brown.
  • If you observe a moving speck, it’s most likely a flea.

Fleas bite and suck the blood of animals, causing anemia in young or small pets with significant flea infestations. Some pets may develop an allergy to flea saliva, resulting in more acute irritation and scratching; these pets might become extremely itchy after only one or two flea bites. Pets can also become infected with certain species of tapeworms if they eat fleas that contain tapeworm eggs (a pet using its teeth to scratch the flea bites often eats the fleas). People may be bitten by fleas in places with moderate to severe flea infestations. While fleas can spread a variety of infectious diseases to dogs and humans, this is uncommon.

Treatment and Control

Based on your needs, your pet’s needs, and the severity of the flea infestation, your vet will recommend an appropriate flea management strategy for your pet. During the flea season, pets at risk for fleas should be treated with an effective preventive. Your veterinarian can prescribe the best product for your pet. Because the flea spends so much of its life cycle on your pet, treating merely your pet will not solve the problem. If you only destroy the adult fleas and not the eggs, larvae, and pupae, your pet will become re-infested when these fleas mature, and the cycle will begin again.

To kill the fleas, you may be advised to treat your home with insecticides; contact your veterinarian about products suitable for use around dogs and children. Flea larvae are more resistant to insecticides than adult fleas. You may also be advised to treat your yard if you have a moderate or severe flea infestation.

The following flea treatments are recommended for dogs:

  •  Oral Chewable Tablets: 

These are an excellent choice for flea and tick prevention and treatment and are safe for both your dog and your family. Only your veterinarian can provide oral medications to treat fleas and ticks.

  • Topical Therapies: 

There are numerous spot-on flea treatments available, each with a varied level of potency and application range. We will assist you in selecting the most effective spot-on flea and tick medication for your dog at your next veterinarian consultation.


Ticks can be found in woodland environments, brush, shrubbery, and wild undergrowth. Ticks in their larval stage frequently feed on small wild animals found in forests, prairies, and scrub. Adult ticks prefer larger hosts, such as dogs and cats, which visit these areas. Tick exposure may be seasonal, depending on where you live. Ticks are a major source of disease transmission in dogs, cats, and humans. There are hard ticks (Ixodidae sp.) and soft ticks (Argasidae sp. ), each with a variety of species. Each species has a distinct geographic range. The only tick that may complete its life cycle in your home is the “brown dog tick” (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), and major domestic infestations can occur.

Diagnosis, Risks, and Consequences

Ticks are most commonly found around your dog’s neck, ears, between the legs and the body, and between the toes, although they can be located anywhere on the body and are typically easily seen or felt. Ticks on cats’ necks and faces are common. Tick bites can irritate the skin, and large infestations can cause anemia in pets. 

Ticks feed on the blood of the host and utilize small but strong teeth to securely attach themselves to the skin and tissue of a dog. Ticks can spread blood-borne infections because they can enter the bloodstream.

A female tick can consume up to 100 times her body weight in blood! Ticks can potentially transmit dangerous infectious diseases (such as Lyme disease) to the pets and people they feed on. Tick paralysis can also be caused by them. Disease risk varies according to geographical area and tick species.


Ticks create welts and bruises on dogs near the bite site. It is also typical for the tick to remain attached. Ticks on dogs can be treated using a variety of methods, including:

  • Topological Applications
  • Medications Taken Orally
  • Tick Collars

Treatment and Control

Tick removal is critical because it reduces the risk of disease transmission from the tick to your pet. Ticks should be removed with caution, using tweezers to securely grab the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible and gently and gradually pulling the tick off without twisting or crushing the tick. Crushing, twisting, or pulling the tick out of the skin while its head is still buried may result in the tick’s mouthpieces becoming lodged in your pet’s skin.

One of the most effective strategies to avoid infestation or re-infestation is to treat your yard and home for ticks and fleas. Among the ways to protect your yard are:

  • Keep the lawn mowed and the shrubbery trimmed.
  • Seal up any open locations where wild animals could nest. Food should not be left out for neighborhood animals such as feral cats or other vermin such as raccoons and opossums.
  • There are effective over-the-counter flea and tick yard sprays available, but it is critical to consult with your veterinarian or landscaper first to ensure that these medications are safe for your pets if swallowed.

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