SlimDoggy Health Check: Parasites – Skin

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Wrapping up our SlimDoggy Health Check on Parasites, we want to cover skin parasites. These are VERY common in dogs and cats and include:

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Mites

Lots of nasty critters that you have to contend with and sorry to say most dogs are going to get one or two of these, probably more than once. Let’s dig in and take a look.


Fleas are easy to catch and hard to get rid of. They thrive in warm humid atmosphere. If you’ve never seen a flea on your dog, they look like tiny little black or brown bugs no bigger than a sesame seed. You would probably notice ‘flea dirt’ before you see an actual flea. Flea dirt (flea droppings) look like flecks of black pepper and you may see them on your dog or in their hair when you brush them. This is a sure sign you are on your way to an infestation. Another symptom is itching, but be aware that your dog may not show signs of itching until they are infested with fleas. At that point, the itching may be more pronounced and your dog may develop redness or hot spots. Fleas bite your dogs and suck the blood. If your dog has a flea allergy, their reactions may be more severe and the itching and hot spots may develop more quickly.

Treatment of your dog for fleas can take many forms depending on the severity. There are powders, collars, monthly spot treatments, homeopathic remedies and diet alternations. We’re not going to recommend a treatment here as they are dependent on your dog, your environment and your own preferences. You should speak with your vet about what is suitable for your situation for both treatment and prevention.

Be aware that the lifecycle of the flea is long. The females lay eggs and they develop into pupae that may fall from your dog onto your carpet or your dog’s bed and emerge months later. If your dog has a heavy infestation, you need to treat not only your dog, but your house and your garden to rid your home and yard of these pesky critters.


Ticks are our second least favorite parasite that we find on our dogs. Ticks are usually found in wooded areas or areas with low shrubs and undergrowth. The ticks sit on these shrubs anxiously waiting for a host to walk by. They will attach themselves to any likely host, so not only dogs can attract ticks, they like cats and even humans. I hate to say there’s been many times I’ve come home from a walk with the dogs with ticks climbing on my sweatpants.
There’s no real symptoms other than visual inspection. Depending on the color of your dog, you may actually SEE the ticks climbing around and be able to remove them before they attach. Once they’ve attached, they are easy to see and feel and are usually found around the neck, ears or the folds of the skin. Once attached – by inserting their mouth into your dog’s skin – they begin feeding on your dog’s blood and become enlarged.

The diagnosis of a tick infestation can be serious. A few ticks are easily dealt with, but a tick infestation, in a dog with a weakened immune system, or a small dog can develop into anemia and even death. Ticks are capable of ingesting up to 100 times their body weight in blood. They may or may not bother your pet, so it’s important to check them regularly, especially during tick season if they have been in an environment where ticks might live.

Ticks also carry several diseases, Rocky Mountain Fever, Lyme disease and others, so you want to rid your dog of them as soon as they are discovered to minimize any potential risks of something more serious developing. Removal is best accomplished using tweezers and gently pulling the tick out slowly and steadily from your dog. Twisting, applying alcohol or burning the tick with a match are not optimal as you may cause more harm to the dog. Prevention can be accomplished with many over the counter treatments. Speak to your vet about which may be optimal for your pet and lifestyle.



There are two different mites found on dogs that cause mange: the Sarcoptes scabiei mite which causes Sarcoptic Mange and Demodex canis mite which causes Demodectic Mange.
Sarcoptic Mange: Sometime called scabies are caused by microscopic mites that burrow into your dog’s skin and create intense itching. It is highly contagious and while they prefer to live on dogs, they will infect other animals, including humans. The mites prefer to live on areas of your dog that have less hair and symptoms would include hair loss and intense itching usually on the belly, elbows, ears or armpits. Your dog may easily cause more harm from the itching than the mites themselves cause.
A severe infestation will show red pustules and yellow crusting on the skin. The constant irritation is traumatizing to the dog’s skin and darkened areas can develop that may never recover. Diagnosis can be tricky. It is usually done with a skin scrapping, but a negative scrapping does not always indicate a lack of the mites. It is often misdiagnosed as an allergy. Treatment is with medicated baths or dips, possibly clipping of the dog’s hair and medication to kill the mites. See your vet to discuss which is appropriate for your dog. Prevention can be a challenge as these mites can live in the environment free of a host for days. They aren’t travelers like fleas and ticks, so cleaning the environment is helpful.

Demodectic Mange: The Demodex canis mite can be found on most dogs all the time and typically cause no problems as the dogs natural immune system keeps them in check. They are not contagious, although they do spread easily from the mother to her pups. Virtually all mother’s transmit some of these mites to their pups and typically the pup’s immune system can stand up to them. If they are weakened by any underlying disease, or if they have not built up their immunity yet, then demodectic mange may result.

The first symptoms are hair loss, lesions and itching usually around the head. Typically, as the pups develop, their lesions will self-heal. If they don’t then treatment is required. Diagnosis is easily made with a skin scraping. Since the mites are found on all dogs, a diagnosis is the presence of the mites and the lesions on the skin. Most demodectic mange is localized and can be treated with topical ointment to the infected areas and possible oral medication. If it has become generalized over your dog’s body, treatment will be more difficult and may require specific medicinal drips over time. You will likely never rid your dog of the mites, and it will require monitoring. Since all dogs most likely have some of these mites on them, prevention is mainly focused on keeping your dog healthy and vibrant with a healthy immune system ready and able to fight off any infection.


Additional Readings:

Welcome to the 2015 Flea & Tick Survival Guide!
External Parasites
Sarcoptic Mange In Your Dog “Scabies”
Demodectic Mange in Dogs
Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

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  1. UGH! So important. Nasty bugger parasites! Grrrrrrrrrrr!!! We went through a bout of fleas last summer and it was not easy to get rid of them!!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Do you know the meaning of your pets name?My Profile

  2. We have a lot of ticks in our area, so we always do a thorough inspection of Luna (and ourselves) after spending time outside. Ticks are definitely a downside of nice weather and spending a lot of time outside. We fortunately haven’t had experience with fleas or mites.
    Jessica Shipman recently posted…Zoomies: Why Does My Dog Get Them?My Profile

  3. GROSS. We use a natural spray and also have our yard sprayed. It is usually easy to spot a tick on Sampson but Delilah being dark, is much harder. They have usually attached by the time I find them.

    We have a new tick borne disease in CT. It is called Powassan virus and it untreatable. Wearing light clothing and checking yourself while and after hiking is probably one of the best ways to prevent ticks. Since we’ve been living in our house I’ve had three or four ticks on ME!
    Jodi recently posted…Hickory Dickory Dee – Barks and BytesMy Profile

  4. And I’m sorry, I forgot to thank you for joining the blog hop!! Thank you.
    Jodi recently posted…Hickory Dickory Dee – Barks and BytesMy Profile

  5. We have been very fortunate not to be bothered by either. We lived in the country years ago and had a tick explosion. It was very dangerous to pets and humans.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Chewy on the BayouMy Profile

  6. Yuck…we hate nasty parasites…I’m always careful to look the pups over after we get back from a hike. It helps that their hair is so short.
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Adopting or Fostering a New Dog.My Profile

  7. So far this year we have only found ticks on the humans, and we hope to keep it that way. None of those fleas, ticks, or mites on our furs if we can help it!
    Emma recently posted…Stairs To The Finer Places In Life {Giveaway}My Profile

  8. Alrighty. Now my skin is crawling just reading this post…lol. Fleas we do not have to worry about too much with Chessies. I think their oily coat discourages fleas. The Golden we had before the Chessies used to get fleas quite often. He always got a big old rash from them. He was super sensitive to them. Ticks ugg. We have to watch those at the farm where we train, but that is more grassy and not wooded. Spring is tick heaven there. Mites we have not had to deal with….thank goodness.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Let’s Hear It For The Purebred DogMy Profile

    • That’s why I didn’t put any photos in…
      Jack is really sensitive to fleas too, so I know immediately if one has found him.
      mkob recently posted…Feeding Active Dogs and Canine AthletesMy Profile

  9. This was really well written and informative. One more thing about fleas if you want to make sure the dirt on your animal is flea dirt you comb them then put the combings on a paper towel wet it down, press the towel together and rub and open it up. if the towel has red specs on it then it is indeed flea dirt as it is blood from the fleas ingesting a blood meal
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Technical Blind And A BirthdayMy Profile

  10. Jax had his first tick after a good hike the other day. I grabbed my tick twister – crushed and flushed that little booger down the toilet. Can’t stand parasites- I check them both daily.
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…PETS IN WEDDINGSMy Profile

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