External parasites

Grey and white cat scratching with hind leg

External parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites are common in pets. When pets have external parasites, they’re said to have an “infestation.”

Besides being extremely irritating, infestations can cause serious skin problems or even disease. Fortunately, advances in veterinary medicine have made it easy to treat, control, and prevent many external parasites.

Top tips for managing external parasites

  • Use parasite preventives for your pet—and promptly treat any infestations—to avoid or lessen your pet’s discomfort, disease transmission, and home infestation from external parasites.
  • Look for fleas, ticks, and coat abnormalities any time you groom your dog or cat or when you return home from areas that are likely to have higher numbers of these parasites.
  • Consult your veterinarian if your pet excessively scratches, chews, or licks their coat, or persistently shakes their head or scratches their ears.
  • Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on products that can effectively and safely control your pet’s parasite problem and protect them from future infestations.
  • Discuss the health of all family pets with your veterinarian when one pet becomes infested. Some parasites cycle among pets, making control of infestations difficult unless other pets are considered. And it’s not only dogs and cats that can be affected. Other types of pets, like rabbits and ferrets, also can catch external parasites.
  • Tell your veterinarian if you’ve tried any parasite remedies, as this may impact your veterinarian’s recommendation.
  • Carefully follow your veterinarian’s or the manufacturer’s directions when using flea and tick control products.
  • Be especially careful when using insect control products for or around cats, as cats are particularly sensitive to these products. Never use a product that is not approved for cats because the results could be deadly.

Veterinary resources