External Parasites

At some point in their lives, many pets experience discomfort caused by external parasites such as fleas, ticks, or mites on their skin or in their ears. These parasites can be extremely irritating to pets and can cause serious skin problems or even carry disease. Although this brochure provides basic information about the most common external parasites, your veterinarian is your best source of advice regarding your pet's needs. Modern medicines make treatment, control, and prevention of many external parasites much easier than in the past.

Important Points

  • Look for fleas, ticks, and coat abnormalities any time you groom your dog or cat or when you return home from areas that are likely to have higher numbers of these parasites.
  • See your veterinarian if your pet excessively scratches, chews, or licks its haircoat, or persistently shakes its head. These clinical signs may indicate the presence of external parasites or other conditions requiring medical care.
  • Prompt treatment of parasites lessens your pet's discomfort, decreases the chances of disease transmission from parasite to pet, and may reduce the degree of home infestation.
  • Discuss the health of all family pets with your veterinarian when one pet becomes infested. Some parasites cycle among pets, making control of infestations difficult unless other pets are considered. Consult your veterinarian before beginning treatment.
  • Tell your veterinarian if you have attempted any parasite remedies, as this may impact your veterinarian's recommendation.
  • Be especially careful when applying insecticides to cats, as cats are particularly sensitive to these products. Never use a product that is not approved for cats, as the results could be lethal.
  • Follow label directions carefully.
  • Leave treatment to the experts. Your veterinarian offers technical expertise and can assist you in identifying products that are most likely to effectively and safely control your pet's parasite problem.

This information has been prepared as a service by the American Veterinary Medical Association.


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