Pet Parasites 101

One big concern for cat and dog owners alike is the threat of parasites. And there are several different types: fleas, mites, lice and ticks. It’s important that you know a little bit about each of them, particularly if you live in a warm climate like Southern California. Since we experience warmer weather, our parasite season might as well be all year long. We don’t experience many cold snaps that kill these literal suckers. Here’s a quick primer on parasites. If you have any questions, call or stop by one of our stores. We carry a range of parasite preventatives and combs to keep you, your pet and your home parasite-free!


Fleas can jump up to six feet which explains their uncanny ability to spread from one animal or area to another. They can spend weeks or longer on any particular host and need to feed on a pet or person’s blood to survive. The bites itch like heck and are thoroughly unpleasant for dogs, cats and owners alike.

Luckily you can prevent flea infestations with pills or topical ointments, so no need to use a bug bomb in your home or coat your yard in toxic pesticides. These preventatives do all the work for you by collecting and killing any stray fleas that come in contact with your pets. Another easy way to help prevent bites and infestations is by simply vacuuming your home. In fact, just a quick vacuum of your living space can remove almost 95% of fleas. Just remember to empty the bag!


Another parasite that frequently plagues man’s best friend is the mite. Dog mites, also called mange, come in two different varieties: sarcoptes and demodex (also called Demodicosis). Sarcoptic mange is contagious and can be passed from one dog to another. The mites burrow under the skin, usually in hairless areas on your dog’s body, such as the groin and armpits. Like flea bites, mange can be incredibly itchy. It’s important to note that this type of mange can also spread to humans!

Demodectic mange in dogs is a little different. It actually isn’t caught from another pup. Rather, all dogs carry a few benign mites other the skin. If a pooch experiences stress or immune failure, the mites spread across the body, resulting in demodex. Both types of mange are treatable, but demodex is a little tricker to cure.

Cats tend to catch ear mites, or otodectes. This type of mange is contagious between cats and thousands of mites can gather in a single ear. You can identify ear mites by their excrement — it’s a black residue that looks an awful lot like coffee grounds in the ear canal.


Lice (singular: louse) are another nasty pest. Lice prefer only one type of host, commonly known as “host-specific.” In other words, you can’t catch a louse from your pet and vice versa (woohoo!). Lice look just like how they did when you caught them in grade school. They look like little white flecks attached to hair shafts.


All of the parasites previously mentioned are pretty bad, but ticks have got to be the worst. They tend to do the most damage and can infect any warm-blooded animal because they aren’t host-specific. Everyone should guard against these pests, but they are most prevalent on the East Coast and in the woods or areas with tall grass. Ticks spread several diseases, the most notable being Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease results in unbelievable fatigue and it is crucial that you seek treatment immediately if you find a tick or tick bite, or suspect you may have Lyme Disease.

If you think you have any kind of pest infestation, call your vet. And stop by our stores if you have any questions about parasite prevention. We’re happy to help you choose the best preventatives for you and your pet.