Greetings from your friendly neighborhood veterinarian! This article I’d like to concentrate on the most common external parasites I’ve seen since practicing here in Page. Ticks, mites, and lice can not only negatively affect your animal’s health, but your whole family’s as well. I’ll do my best not to dive into too much detail but hit the important points for our geographic region. On occasion, you or your pet may get bit by other biting insects that cause acute local reactions, but that may be a topic for another time.
According to longtime locals, ticks have not been a problem in Page city limits but appear to be on the rise this year. Some clients have found ticks on their animals after being in their own backyard. Most often we see ticks on patients that have been on the reservation, the kaibab, or other surrounding areas with higher elevation and more vegetation. Recent tick surveillance in Arizona has shown that the two most common ticks that we see in our area are the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus and the rocky mountain wood tick Dermacentor andersoni. I bring these two up because they are responsible for transmitting rocky mountain spotted fever, the brown dog tick being the highest offender. Rocky mountain spotted fever is a bacterial disease transmitted by ticks while feeding on their host for multiple hours. Though humans may not always be a natural host for ticks, we can also be bitten and contract disease from them. So, if you happen to find ticks on you or your animal, please remove them as soon as possible. Lyme disease is also transmitted by ticks but less frequent in the state of Arizona because the tick responsible is less widespread. There are currently many great veterinary grade tick prevention products on the market, please consult with your local veterinarian to determine the best option for you and your animals. For more information regarding tick-borne diseases and others in the state of Arizona visit www.azdhs.org.
Other external parasites that may affect you and your animals are mites. The two that we’ve seen at Page Animal Hospital since I’ve been here are the sarcoptes mange mite and cheyletiella or “walking dandruff” mite. The most common sign that your pet may be infested with one of these mites is severe itch and sometimes hair loss. In severe cases of sarcoptic mange, animals may have generalized hair loss with thickened dark elephant-like skin. Other mild cases of either mite infestation could be confused with allergies. If you think your animal may have mites, please contact your local veterinarian. Because these mites are highly contagious between animals and can be transmitted to humans, if your animal is diagnosed with one of these mites your veterinarian may refer you to your local physician. Another skin mite that I feel important to mention, that can also cause itching and hair loss is the demodex mite. The difference with this mite is that it normally grows in the skin in low numbers and cannot be transmitted to humans or other animals. The only time this mite causes problems is when it reproduces in large numbers uncontrolled and causes skin infections.
Some other external parasites that can be passed from animal to animal that we’ve seen include: spinose ear ticks Otobius megnini, blood sucking lice, and ear mites Otodectis. Spinose ear ticks are found, you guessed it, in the external ear canal and commonly cause ear infections. These can be difficult to remove if found deep in the ear canal. Sucking lice can sometimes be hard to find, but in high enough numbers can cause significant blood loss. You may also see brown dandruff-like debris and hair loss on your animal. Ear mites, as you can imagine, also cause ear infections. Animals infested with ear mites commonly shake their head a lot and scratch at their ears. The debris found in the ears is usually dark brown and dry, almost like coffee grounds. If you suspect your animal may be infested with any other these parasites, please contact your local veterinarian for treatment. Please don’t be alarmed, though these bugs may make your skin crawl just thinking about them, these parasites are species specific. This means they like their host and will likely not bother you. If they do they won’t stay long ;) Now that I’ve sufficiently grossed you out and probably caused psychogenic itching, I hope you learned a few things in this month’s article that will keep you and your animals safe and healthy. If you have any questions regarding your pet’s health, please don’t hesitate to call us at Page Animal Hospital (928) 645-2816.
Bret the Vet