PARASITE PREVENTION: ‘External’ Parasites in Cats and Dogs

For cats and dogs, the most commonly noted external parasites include FLEAS, and TICKS, and occasionally EAR and MANGE MITES (otodectes, demodex and sarcoptes).

FLEAS: Fleas are spread from exposure to other animals, commonly other cats, dogs, and rodents that your outdoor cat or dog may interact with. There are many possible treatments for fleas, but be aware that many of the products available at the pet store or department store may pose toxicity risks to a cat. Never apply flea medications, baths or collars to your cat without discussing first with your veterinarian in order to ensure the product is safe. Remember also that if one cat or dog in your household has fleas, you will need to treat all the animals in the household, as well as perform some cleaning of carpets and bedding in the house. Flea eggs and larvae can persist in the carpeting or rugs for up to six months, so preventative products should be used for this length of time at least. Commonly recommended flea prevention products for cats and dogs include Advantage, Advantage Multi, and Revolution.

TICKS: Ticks can spread many types of diseases, including Lyme disease to your pets (or humans). We are seeing more and more ticks each year in Canada, as the deer population increases and the temperature increases: ticks are moving northwards. Ticks hang out on the ends of long grasses and wave their legs around until they attach to a warm mammal for a meal. In Canada, there are currently two main products for tick prevention for dogs: Advantix, and Revolution. Advantix is a tick repellant medication, and should NOT be applied to cats, but it is safe and effective for administration for dogs. Revolution helps to prevent exposure to one type of tick for cats and dogs, but is not labeled to protect against all types of ticks. If you find a tick on your pet, either bring your pet to the vet to have the tick removed and identified, or remove the tick by using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and then gently pulling. Sometimes the head of the tick can remain embedded in the skin and can cause an inflammatory reaction. Always save the tick in a pill jar, ziplock bag, or some container and bring to your vet to determine if it is potentially an infectious tick. Regular screening for various tick borne diseases can be performed at the time of your dog’s annual heartworm test, or when you find ticks on your pet. You should consider this testing if your pet is active outdoors (hiking, cottaging, camping, farm pets) and particularly if you travel anywhere in the Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, or St. Lawrence River areas in Ontario. The following parks have higher incidence of ticks also: Long Point Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, Point Pelee National Park, Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area, and the St. Lawrence Islands National Park area. If you travel to the North-East United States or Minnesota or Wisconsin with your pet, ensure you have planned for tick prevention during the time of your visit.

EAR MITES: Nasty creepy crawlies that are most commonly found in the ears of kittens or cats, but occasionally in dogs. They cause a large amount of itching, inflammation and debris in the ears, and are contagious from cat to cat. If a new cat in your household is diagnosed with ear mites, you will need to treat all cats in your house with prevention products such as Revolution or Advantage multi. Cats diagnosed with this infection (a swab from their ears is viewed under the microscope for diagnosis) require ear cleaning to remove debris, and specific medications for their ears to treat an active infection. Dogs are usually exposed to ear mites from an infected cat.