External Parasites

External Parasites

There are multiple kinds of fleas. The most important is Ctenocephalides felis, referred to as the common cat flea, as it will be found in numerous places and can feed off of cats, dogs, and humans. These tend to be the most irritating species of flea. There are two other prevalent types of fleas the Ctenocephalides canis, mostly a problem for canines, and Pulex irritans, primarily infesting humans but will feed on other mammals. Once a pet is infested, you will find the parasites to be concentrated around the head, neck and tail. Fleas not only make your pet itchy, but also could cause pets to develop an allergic response to their saliva, and give your pet tapeworms or other diseases. If a kitten or puppy becomes heavily infested with fleas, they can become anemic, which means they are low in red blood cells. Anemia can best be determined by checking for pale gums and weakness. To keep fleas under control, be sure to treat your pet monthly, vacuum your home regularly, and if need be, treat your home and lawn.Ticks:
Ticks pose a multitude of problems to pets and people. Many tick species are capable of spreading a few different diseases. There are about three ticks that are most common to find in Pennsylvania. First of those, Ixodes scapularis, typically called deer tick, commonly presents the most concern as they are the primary vector for transmitting Lyme disease. A description of that disease can be found under the vaccine portion of this website. The severity of Lyme disease is very serious, making it imperative to remove the ticks as soon as possible to avoid disease transmission. Another one, Dermacentor variabilis, also referred to as the American dog tick, would be routinely found on canine species. These ticks are capable of transmitting Rocky Mountain spotted fever and causing tick paralysis. Rocky Mountain spotted fever tends to be more of a problem in people. Tick paralysis occurs from having a heavy tick infestation and toxins released from the parasite’s saliva, leading to the paralysis of animals. Thankfully, American dog ticks are not capable of transmitting Lyme disease. Lastly, Amblyomma Americanum, the lone star tick, has been known to transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and cause tick paralysis. Similar to the dog tick, it does not have a history of transmitting Lyme disease.
All of the above mentioned ticks will infest a variety of species, including humans. Generally, in the younger stages of life, a tick will feed off of small animals, like rodents and cats, and as adults feed off of larger animals. Be sure to check for all stages of the tick because larva and nymphs are very small.Refer to http://bugwood.org/ for pictures – contact them to ensure use of their pictures would be appropriate – they have really great photos of what the different ticks look like and according to their policy it does not appear they will mind use of their pictures for client education (with proper citation they provide).

Sarcoptes scabiei is a type of mite that causes a dermatologic condition called sarcoptic mange in a variety of animals, but not usually on cats. This is a highly contagious skin issue, which can be contracted from your pet coming into close contact with wildlife or other infested animals. Generally, when a pet develops a heavy infestation, they will become extremely itchy and as a result experience hair loss, deep scratch marks, thickening of skin, scabbing and crusting. If you suspect or your pet is diagnosed with sarcoptic mange, take tremendous care while handling them as humans can become infested with sarcoptic mites and become just as itchy.

Lice are yet another type of ectoparasite that causes the skin of infested animals to become very itchy. There are many different varieties of lice, and they tend to be very host specific. There exists no potential for a human to get lice from their pets. Additionally, lice are obligate parasites and only transfer hosts from close physical contact. Any signs seen from an infested animal will come from the damage done by insistent scratching, like hair loss and scabbing. Generally, the most common concern of a pet coming down with a heavy infestation would be animals with poor immune systems, or ones that are very young or old.

During the late summer months and early fall, puppies and kittens kept outside occasionally develop a skin lesion with a larvae peeking out of a hole in their skin. Those larvae are commonly referred to as “warbles”. These warbles are the immature stage of a bot fly, part of the Cuterebra genus. Rodents tend to be the primary host of this parasite but cats, dogs, and even ferrets will become victims of an infestation. They will cause your pet to become very ill and develop a fever. Around the head, neck and trunk are the most typical places to locate the pest. The best way to remove them would be to bring in the affected animal to your veterinarian to ensure proper removal, and follow up treatment to help the animal recover.

Demodex are a type of mite that can cause skin irritation called demodectic mange or demodicosis. The species of the mite will determine the particular animal they will infest; thus they do not have any zoonotic potential. They tend to reside in the sebaceous glands of their host and are incapable of surviving off the host, making transmission only possible through close physical contact. Dogs, more than cats, are affected by this parasite, and puppies can get it from an infested mother while nursing.

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