How to Protect Your Pet from Parasites

External parasites live on your cat or dog's skin and can create a lot of health problems if they are not properly treated. Our Edgewater vets are here with some tips to help with parasite prevention for your pets. 

Common External Parasites

There are a number of parasites that can make themselves home on your pet's skin. The following are some of the most common external parasites our Edgewater vets treat.


Fleas are small, black insects that feed on mammals such as dogs and cats. They thrive in warm, moist weather and can be seasonal or year-round depending on where you live. These pests are frequently visible on the skin of your pet.

Fleabites make some dogs so miserable that they bite and scratch themselves raw. Fleas may cause young dogs to become anemic. Also, dogs can become infected with tapeworms by swallowing fleas carrying tapeworm eggs.

If you see evidence of fleas on your pet, it’s essential to get rid of them as quickly as possible, before the population grows. Hungry fleas sometimes bite humans, too, leaving small, red, itchy bumps most commonly on wrists and ankles.


Every year, tick-borne diseases infect thousands of dogs, cats, and humans. Ticks can transmit a variety of serious illnesses and tick-borne diseases to dogs, including Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ticks feed on mammals, birds, and reptiles' blood.

Check your pet for ticks daily after he spends time outside, and whenever you see a tick, take it off immediately. The best way is to numb the tick with rubbing alcohol or petroleum jelly and pull it off with fine-point tweezers. Once removed, kill the tick by putting it in a container of alcohol.

Lice and Mites

Lice and mites are microscopic organisms that feed on your pet's skin and cause itching, hair loss, and infection. Generally speaking, lice and mites are two different species, but they function and behave in a very similar ways.

Lice live in your dog's hair and can be killed with a tick or flea insecticide. It is important to note that dog lice and human lice are different species; dog lice require dog blood, while human lice require human blood. While humans may be bitten by dog lice on occasion, they will not become infested.

Various kinds of mites inhabit different areas of the dog, and the problems they cause are generally known as mange such as ear mites, scabies, and cheyletiella mites.

How To Prevent External Parasites on Pets

The use of year-round heartworm and parasite prevention products, as well as appropriate flea and/or tick products, is the foundation of an effective parasite control program for your cat or dog.

In addition, the following steps can be part of a proactive program to help keep your cat healthy and parasite-free:

  • Have your cat examined at least once per year by your veterinarian.
  • Look for fleas, ticks, and coat abnormalities any time you groom your dog or cat or when you return home from areas that might have external parasites.
  • Consult your veterinarian if your pet excessively scratches, chews, or licks the coat, persistently shakes the head, or scratches the ears.
  • Have heartworm tests conducted periodically.
  • Provide pets with cooked or prepared food (not raw meat) and fresh, potable water.
  • Conduct fecal examinations 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 to 2 times each year for adults, depending on the pet’s health and lifestyle factors.
  • Administer parasite treatment to puppies and kittens starting at two weeks of age repeating every two weeks until 8 weeks of age, followed by monthly treatments as a preventive.
  • Deworm nursing mothers along with their puppies or kittens.

If you do not give your pet year-round parasite prevention, the following measures should be taken:

  • Deworm kittens biweekly from 2-8 weeks of age and then monthly until 6 months of age.
  • Have fecal exams conducted 2 to 4 times a year for adult cats and dogs.
  • Tailor parasite prevention programs to your pet based on parasite prevalence and lifestyle factors.

The Importance of Routine Wellness Exams

When you bring your dog to our Edgewater animal hospital, our team will walk through their medical history and inquire about any specific concerns you might have with their health.

In some cases, we will have already requested a sample of your pet's stool in order to perform a fecal exam. We'll take this sample and look for signs of common intestinal parasites that would be difficult to detect otherwise.

After these initial steps, your veterinarian will perform a physical checkup of your pet which will usually include any or all of the following:

  • Listening to your dog's heart and lungs
  • Checking your animal's weight, stance, and gait
  • Inspecting the dog's coat for overall condition, dandruff, or abnormal hair loss
  • Looking at your dog's feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
  • Looking at your dog's ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
  • Checking your dog's eyes for signs of redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
  • Examining the condition of your dog's teeth for any indications of periodontal disease, damage or decay
  • Palpate your pet's abdomen to access whether the internal organs appear to be normal and to check for signs of discomfort
  • Examining your dog's skin for a range of issues from dryness to parasites to lumps and bumps (particularly in skin folds)
  • Feeling along your dog's body (palpating) for any signs of illness such as swelling, evidence of lameness such as limited range of motion, and signs of pain

Each of these tests is intended to detect signs of health issues your dog may be experiencing/ Because our canine companions aren't able to tell us when they are uncomfortable or in pain, this help to check how your pet is generally feeling.

Getting Your Pet Their Shots

Vaccinations are designed to protect your dog against contagious, common and possibly even life-threatening diseases. The vaccines which we recommend for your dog will be based on where you live and what your pet's lifestyle is like.

There are core vaccines which we recommend for all dogs and there are "lifestyle vaccines" which are recommended for pets who are often in contact with other animals. To learn more about the vaccines we recommend for your pet, take a look at our vaccine schedules.

In order to stay disease-free, your adult dog will need booster shots on a regular basis. Boosters are typically given to your pet once every year or once every three years. Our veterinarians will notify you when your dog's booster shots are due.

Is preventive care expensive?

When compared to the cost of treating an advanced form of a condition, disease or disorder, routine preventative healthcare for your dog will save you money.

Not only that, but preventative veterinary care will ensure that your dog suffers as little pain or discomfort as possible as a result of any health issues. The sooner a medical problem in your pet is discovered, the sooner it can be diagnosed and treated.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you ready to book your pet's next routine wellness exam? Contact Animal General today in order to provide your pet with the preventative services they need to live a long, healthy and happy life.