Pet Health Home Menu
Cherokee Animal Clinic
P O Box 416
665 Johnson Street
Rusk, TX 75785
Clinic Hours:
Monday - Friday 7:30 am - 5:30 pm

Published by American Veterinary Medical Association

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 the following provides basic information about the most common external parasites, we are 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.


Flea Basics
Fleas thrive when the weather is warm and humid. Depending on your climate, fleas may be a seasonal or year-round problem. Your pet can pick up fleas wherever an infestation exists, often in areas frequented by other cats and dogs. Adult fleas are dark brown, no bigger than a sesame seed, and able to move rapidly over your pet's skin.

Adult fleas live their entire lives on your pet. Female fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of selecting your pet as a host, producing up to 50 eggs each day. These eggs fall from your pet onto the floor or furniture, including your pet's bed, or onto any other indoor or outdoor area where your pet happens to be. Tiny worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs and, to avoid sunlight, burrow into carpets, under furniture, or into soil before spinning a cocoon. The cocooned flea pupae can lie dormant for weeks before emerging as adults, ready to infest your pet. This gives fleas a life cycle of anywhere from 12 days to 6 months. Knowing where fleas develop helps you to efficiently break their life cycle.

Risks and Consequences

You might not even know that your pet has fleas until their number increases to the point that your pet is visibly uncomfortable. Signs of flea problems range from mild irritation to severe itching that can lead to open sores and skin infection. One of the first things you might notice on a pet with fleas is "flea dirt", the black flea droppings left on your pet's coat.

Some pets develop an allergy to flea saliva and this condition requires management. Also, pets can become infected with tapeworms if they ingest fleas carrying tapeworm eggs. Young or small pets with heavy flea infestations may become anemic, and in areas with moderate to severe flea infestations, people may experience flea bites. Fleas are capable of transmitting a few other infectious diseases to pets and people, but this is rare.

Treatment and Control

We will recommend an appropriate flea control plan for your pet based on your particular needs and the severity of the flea infestation. In addition to treating your pet, you can reduce the flea population in your house by thoroughly cleaning your pet's sleeping quarters and vacuuming floors and any furniture that your pet frequents. Careful and regular vacuuming or cleaning of the pet's living area helps to remove and kill flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. Pay particular attention to carpeted areas and rugs where your pet lies.

These are flea eggs and larvae that get into
your carpet and infest your home

With moderate and severe flea infestations, treatment of your yard may be necessary in addition to treatment of your home. We can recommend an appropriate course of action. Finally, ask us about ways to prevent future flea infestations.


Hosting a tick is the price dogs or, less commonly, cats may pay for investigating shrubbery, brush, or wild undergrowth. Ticks have a four-stage life cycle, and immature ticks often feed on small, wild animals found in forests, prairies, and brush. Adult ticks seek larger hosts like dogs and cats who venture into these habitats. Tick exposure may be seasonal, depending on geographic location.

Risks and Consequences

Ticks are most often found around your dog's neck, in the ears, in the folds between the legs and the body, and between the toes. Cats may have ticks on their neck or face. Tick bites can cause skin irritation. Ticks are also capable of spreading serious infectious diseases to the pets and people on which they feed. Disease risk varies by geographic area and tick species. Heavy infestations can cause anemia in pets.

Treatment and Control

Prompt removal of ticks is very important because it lessens the chance of disease transmission from the tick to your pet. Remove ticks by carefully using tweezers to firmly grip the tick as close to the pet's skin as possible and gently pulling the tick free. After removing the tick, crush it, avoiding contact with tick fluids that can carry disease.

Pets that are at risk for ticks should be treated during the tick season with an appropriate tick preventative. We can recommend a product that best suits your pet's needs. Owners who take their pets to tick-prone areas during camping, sporting, or hiking trips should examine their pets for ticks immediately on returning home and remove any ticks from their pets. If your pet picks up ticks in the backyard, trimming brush may reduce your pet's exposure to tick habitats.

Ear Mites

Mite Basics
Ear mites are common in young cats and dogs, and generally confine themselves to the ears and surrounding area. Mites are tiny and individual mites may be seen only with the aid of a microscope. Your pet can pick up ear mites by close contact with an infested pet or its bedding.

Risks and Consequences

Ear mites can cause intense irritation of the ear canal. Signs of ear mite infestation include excessive head shaking and scratching of the ears. Your pet may scratch to the point that it creates bleeding sores around its ears. A brown or black ear discharge is common.

Treatment and Control

Treatment of ear mites involves thorough ear cleaning and medication. Your veterinarian can recommend an effective treatment plan.

Sarcoptic Mange Mites

Microscopic sarcoptic mange mites cause sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies. Sarcoptic mange mites affect dogs of all ages, during any time of the year. Sarcoptic mange mites are highly contagious to other dogs and may be passed by close contact with infested animals, bedding, or grooming tools.

Risks and Consequences

Sarcoptic mange mites burrow through the top layer of the dog's skin and cause intense itching. Clinical signs include generalized hair loss, a skin rash, and crusting. Skin infections may develop secondary to the intense irritation. People who come in close contact with an affected dog may develop a rash and should see their physician.

Treatment and Control

Dogs with sarcoptic mange require medication to kill the mites and additional treatment to soothe the skin and resolve related infections. Cleaning and treatment of the dog's environment can be beneficial.

Demodectic Mange Mites

Mite Basics
Demodectic mange caused by demodectic mange mites is mainly a problem in dogs. Demodectic mange mites are microscopic, cigar-shaped, and not highly contagious. However, a dam may pass the mites to her puppies.

Risks and Consequences

Localized demodectic mange tends to appear in young dogs as patches of scaliness and redness around the eyes and mouth and, perhaps, the legs and trunk. Unlike other types of mange, demodectic mange may signal an underlying medical condition, and your pet's overall health should be carefully evaluated. Less commonly, young and old dogs experience a generalized form of demodectic mange and can exhibit widespread patches of redness, hair loss, and scaliness.

Treatment and Control

We will discuss treatment options with you. Treatment of dogs with localized demodectic mange generally results in favorable outcome. Generalized demodectic mange, however, may be difficult to treat, and treatment may only control the condition, rather than cure it.

Important Points

For additional information or feel you need to have your pet examined, give us a call!.

Care Credit