Breeding, Facility Management, Fleas, Pet Care Basics, Shelter and Rescue Resources, Skin Problem Resources

External Parasites in Dogs Webinar

This dog external parasites webinar with Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, DVM answers the most common questions when it comes to external parasites in dogs:

  • How do I get rid of fleas on my dog and inside my house or kennel?
  • What kills fleas on dogs fast?
  • Why does my dog keep getting fleas, ticks and mites?
  • What is the best external parasite prevention for dogs?
  • What flea and tick preventatives are safe for pregnant and nursing dogs?
  • How do I know if a dog has mites, fleas or a tick?
  • And more!
Fleas, Ticks, Mites and other External Parasites in Dogs Webinar

Flea and Tick Finder button

The Revival Flea & Tick Finder does is it helps you, based on whether you have a male or female dog, a dog or a cat, a dog that’s pregnant or not, the age, all those important things that we make decisions on, what products are best. It goes through and walks you through an algorithm that helps you select the best product. You’re not going to be on your own completely making these decisions.

Fleas on Dogs

Fleas are reddish brown in color. Fleas don’t have wings and fleas do not fly. They do jump and move quickly, but fleas can’t fly. They’re flattened side to side and have six legs. So unlike a tick, which is flat, top to bottom, a flea is flat side to side, which allows it to dart between the hairs really quickly on your dog or your cat, or on you if it ends up on you. The easiest place to see them is usually on the unhaired part of the tummy, the belly where the dog or cat doesn’t have as much hair. Sometimes on cats right up by their ears where there’s a little patch of less hair up there as far we’ll see them as well. But they will be found frequently on the dogs.

Dog Flea Life Cycle

When fleas go through their lifecycle, they lay an egg which turns into a pupa, which turns into a nymph, which turns into an adult flea. Then we have the whole lifecycle starting over again. Fleas need to take a blood meal to lay eggs. The female flea will take a blood meal. She’ll mate with the male, she’ll produce eggs, the eggs, they’ll be in the environment, sometimes on the pet skin. Sometimes they roll off and end up in your carpet or your furniture. Those two days to two weeks later will turn into larva. Larva will then live in the carpet, the furniture, that kind of stuff for another 5 to 14 days, they turn into a pupa, which is a baby flea. And then a week to several months later, they turn into an adult flea.

Now the lifecycle of a flea can take as little as three weeks depending on what the environment is, how hot it is in your house, how cold it is in your house, what the humidity is, and it can take longer if there isn’t anything alive in your house, like if there’s a house that’s vacant for a period of time. Those fleas can stay really pretty dormant, just hanging around waiting for something that moves, something with carbon dioxide, something with heat. If you move or walk into a house, it’s been empty for a while, those fleas are going to reactivate and they’re going to come out in full force. If there’s not a dog in the house, you’re going to be their next meal. So it’s not all that much fun to come into a house where fleas have become dormant.

Optimal conditions for fleas are between 70° and 85° F at 70% humidity. Certain climates of the United States have better conditions for fleas than others. Areas where it’s cold and dry in the wintertime we don’t have as much of a problem with fleas as we do in other parts of the country. If you live in the southern tier of states, Florida, Texas, where it’s hot and humid, fleas are a huge issue. All the dogs and cats in those areas are going to have fleas unless we do something about flea and tick control. It’s very important that we’re aware that these environmental conditions are key to keeping the life cycle going.

A female adult flea can up to 50 eggs a day and 2,000 eggs in 2 months. Fleas will take blood meals off of dogs and cats, but also other rodents, other little warm blooded animals and off of humans as well. They are super common. We see them in all climates. The time we see them the most in our northern tier of state climates, the time we find them in the house the most is in October, right about the time that the weather starts to get cold. As it starts to cool off in late September, October and November, the fleas that are living outside on the rabbits and the little other creatures that live in your yard are like, you know, it’s getting a little chilly out here. So they hop onto your dog and that’s when we tend to see the biggest problems in the northern states is during the fall. But they can be all year round in many places. And they’re not just icky little creatures. They also spread important diseases like tularemia. They spread tapeworms from dog to dog and from dog to other species. Control and treatment are required year round in most climates, and that’s going to be things like Frontline for dogs, which is a topical, Bravecto for dogs, which is an oral, and Selamectin, which is in Revolution, another topical flea control product for dogs.

Does My Dog Have Fleas?

Symptoms of fleas in dogs or cats include scratching, obsessively chewing, especially at the base of the tail. Fleas on dogs and cats tend to hang out in the highest numbers around the base of the tail. So if you’re looking for them, you’re going to see it’s easier to see them on the belly, but they’re going to be more of them around the top of the tail, the rump. When you look down against the coat, sometimes you’ll see the fleas, sometimes you’ll see flea dirt. Flea dirt is flea poop, it’s also called flea frass. And that’s where the blood meal, the female flea takes the blood meal, and then she passes that blood. An allergic dog, a dog that’s allergic to fleas will be itchy everywhere. A dog that only has fleas but doesn’t have a flea allergy will be uncomfortable, but not nearly to the same degree as the flea-allergic dogs. Humans can get flea bites as well. If you are seeing some rashy kind of lesions that might be itchy, this is something to talk to your dermatologist, your physician about.

Flea Dirt on Dogs

Flea dirt or flea poop is called flea frass. If we comb through the coat and we don’t see a flea, but we see little black specks, they kind of look like dirt, but they’re not quite dirt because when you put them on a wet gauze or a wet paper towel, they turn into blood because the blood meal that the flea took then passes out. If you’re finding flea dirt or flea frass, this is how to tell the difference between dirt, dirt like the kind is out in your lawn and flea dirt. If we rehydrate it, it turns into this blood. It becomes pretty evident that that’s frass and that’s from actual fleas living actively on the pet.

How to Get Rid of Fleas on a Dog

How do we get rid of the fleas on the dog? The fastest way to kill fleas on a dog is going to be Capstar. It’s an oral product that contains nicotinamide. Within an hour you’re going to have fleas dropping off the dog pretty quickly, but that only lasts about 24 hours. It does a great job of knocking the flea numbers down, but it’s not going to give you the prolong kill that you need to interrupt that life cycle of the flea. Because remember, those fleas are going to continue to have eggs that hatch out into larva and into pupa and then come back and into adult fleas. So unless you’re retreating every 3 to 4 weeks, you’re going to have those fleas hatching out again and again and again, and you’re going to be really frustrated.

Flea Treatment for Pregnant Dogs

Frontline is a topical over-the-counter product that does a great job on flea control. Revolution is a prescription topical item called Selamectin. It is similar to ivermectin, which is one of the mectins that we see that does do a good job of parasite control. It is able to get rid of fleas, ticks, ear mites, prevent heartworm disease in dogs and to treat scabies. This is a product that is safe for dogs that are in a breeding program, dogs that are pregnant and puppies that are over six weeks of age. Bravecto is the oral tablet. There are four oral flea and tick medications on the market. There is Credelio, NexGard, Simparica and Bravecto. Credelio, NexGard and Simparica have not been tested in breeding animals. Bravecto has been found to be safe in breeding dogs.

Remember a breeding dog is a breeding dog. A six week old male puppy that you’re planning on keeping as your next stud dog is a breeding dog. He’s not pregnant. He will never be pregnant. When he’s two years old and he starts producing sperm, we want him to have sperm and we don’t know what Credelio, NexGard and Simparica are going to do to male dogs in a breeding program or female dogs in a breeding program, pregnant or not. Advantage and Advantix are not tested. Vectra is not safe. Seresto is the collar. It is not tested and labeled as safe in the United States. It’s really important that you are looking at the label of your products. You as a consumer can talk to your vet, which may or may not be paying attention to the nuances of these drugs. If 95% of the patients that they see in their veterinary clinic are not in breeding programs, they may not think about this as being important. You can look to your veterinary professional, you can look online. And if you Google search, you type into Google for the name of the product and then search for the product insert. The product insert will show under reproductive and nursing safety that information tested, not tested. The products Frontline, Revolution, Bravecto, are tested and we know are safe in breeding animals. Stick to the ones we know are safe. Don’t go off the rails and if you do and you end up with a problem with pregnancy or with fertility. Think hard about the fact that you need to follow label direction. You need to make sure you’re using a safe product.

What Kills Fleas in the Environment

The other thing with fleas you need to do is treat the environment. Anything that’s a soft surface like carpeting or furniture, you can vacuum. Make sure you throw out the vacuum cleaner bag so that the fleas and the flea larva are not living in the vacuum cleaner bag till the next time you turn it on. You can put things that you can’t launder into the clothes dryer. So if you have cushions on your couch like pillows and you need to get some way to treat those pillows, you can throw them in your clothes dryer. You can also do sprays in the house that kill fleas. You can do sprays that include IGRs, which are insect growth regulators. Those are products that will help get rid of the fleas.

The primary problem is that the fleas don’t entirely live on the dog, so getting the dog on to a flea prevention will get rid of that part of the lifecycle. But the fleas will still bite you, they’ll still bite other species, and they can still perpetuate. One of the reasons we see treatment failures in fleas is that if you have, say, ten dogs and two cats and you treat the dogs but not the cats, the cats are going to perpetuate that life cycle. All the pets in the environment of that dog need to be treated. You can’t just treat a few of them and expect that the problem is going to go away.

How to Prevent Fleas

Flea prevention on dogs is the same as treatment for fleas Revolution, which is selamectin. Bravecto will work, Frontline will work. And the nice thing about Bravecto, which is different than the topicals, Revolution and Frontline, is that you get nose to tail protection, including the feet in the tail. We know some of the topicals don’t get well distributed to the extremities. So the tail and the feet where the product doesn’t get into quite as well, doesn’t do as good a job as the oral product, Bravecto, in getting rid of the flea lifecycle stages. Prevention again in the environment, sprays, powders. Some people use guinea fowl to get rid of fleas and ticks. Those are a form of poultry. Vacuuming and doing the laundry. All those are really important in flea control.

Ticks are our next exciting topic. Ticks are flat top to bottom, not side to side. Again, they don’t have wings and they come in a couple of different versions. You can see that some of them can be pretty small as compared to this one cent piece here, and sometimes it does require magnification. I have people come in all the time. I had a lady yesterday that said, Oh, I thought my dog had a little wart on her. And then I pulled it off and then realized it was a tick. So they are really a time bomb like fleas. They are not just icky, they carry disease as well. So it’s very important that we’re aware of that.

Is Topical Flea Treatment Safe Around Kids

The topical flea products for dogs do translocate. I am pretty careful in households with small kids because of that. I think of all the products that are out there, Revolution would be the safest. Again, it’s an ivermectin product and although ivermectin products are not used in humans, the United States, they are in other countries for parasite control. The other products that you put out topically that contain permethrin, pyrethrum, those kinds of things, there’s a risk. Kids come along, and they throw their arms around the dog, give them a big kiss right over their shoulders, right, exactly where you put the product. So I’m pretty careful in households with small children. So that’s where some of those oral products can really shine. If you’re looking at a product safety reason, I would avoid the topicals as much as possible in those households.

Types of Ticks on Dogs

Tick appearances can be variable. There’s the deer tick, which we see most in the upper Midwest and in the East Coast areas as causing Lyme disease. We see the brown dog tick. We can see the Lone Star tick that is mostly in the southern tier of states, more in the Texas area. That’s the name, Lone Star Tick. But we can see them in other parts of the country as well. So there’s a number of different types of ticks. As climate change has occurred, we’ve seen these ticks moving further out and further out. Now, the last tick, which is the most recent new tick in town, there’s a new tick in town is the Asian Longhorned tick. And that tick has just moved into the United States fairly recently. It came in on livestock, probably sheep or cattle that came on in the East Coast. So we primarily have seen it on the East Coast. So if you’re pulling ticks off and you’re wondering what this thing is because it doesn’t look like all the other ticks, you might want to look at the Asian Longhorned tick, the scary part about the Asian Longhorned tick is that it does not need to mate to produce baby ticks. All these other ticks are like fleas. They need a blood meal and they need a mate. But the Asian Longhorned tick can replicate without a male. What we use to kill ticks on dogs are products like Bravecto that say 12 weeks on it for most ticks are 8 week intervals for the Lone Star tick.

Ticks on Dogs Life Cycle

The life cycle of the adult tick includes taking a blood meal and after it’s attached for 24 or more hours, they lay eggs. The eggs fall off into the environment, the eggs hatch out, they form into larva, then into nymphs, and then attach again.

Where Are Ticks Found

Most people think that ticks are only a problem in parts of the country where it’s warm all the time. In Wisconsin, we actually see most of our tick problems in January of February, when we get a nice 40 degree day, it warms up a little bit. The ticks have been waiting the whole winter for something to come along and feast on. They sit on the ends of blades of grass doing this little thing with their front little legs called questing, and they’ll feel the movement, they’ll feel the carbon dioxide, they’ll feel the heat, and they’ll transmit from that piece of vegetation onto your pet or onto you. So be aware that January and February are months that you still need to do your tick control.

The same with fleas. If your dog goes out the yard and rolls around on a bunny that died in your yard in January, I don’t care if there’s snow on the ground, if your dog goes out there and picks up ticks or fleas, you’re going to have them in your environment. That’s why flea and tick products for dogs should be use year round. Don’t let your coverage on those products lapse or you’re going to end up with problems again.

Ticks are common in all climates Minnesota, northeast Wisconsin, but mostly the the deer tick is in those areas. They bite humans and dogs. They bite other species as well.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), has a map that shows the distribution of Lyme disease. Now, this map, you can go in for heartworm, fleas, ticks, Lyme disease. You can put in a number of different parameters on what disease you’re looking to see, what species you’re looking at it in.

Can Ticks Make Dogs Sick

The big concern with ticks is that they spread disease such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and ehrlichia. We probably don’t identify every single disease that’s spread by ticks. We know where Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a concern and there are some researchers that have done some pretty great informational research that shows that some of the blood borne diseases that we see in people and in dogs may be related to ticks and tick borne diseases. So it’s a little bit scary to think that it’s a possibility that some of the bone marrow cancers may have a relationship with tick borne diseases. So ticks are very important to control. They’re not just icky to find walking around in your clothing, they’re not just icky to find attached to you, but they spread some pretty serious diseases. We know in people, sometimes Lyme disease can become a really chronic disease, hard to diagnose, hard to eliminate. And it happens in our dogs, too. Tick control in dogs requires, year-round treatment. So please don’t skimp on it. Please use your Frontline, Bravecto, Selamectin, year-round.

Tick Bite on Dogs Symptoms

Two symptoms are typically the bite of the tick, which in a dog can last for an extended period of time. It can take three weeks or more for the tick bite to resolve. We don’t see a target lesion with Lyme disease on the skin of dogs like we do in people. But again, the most significant tick borne diseases that we diagnose and see are going to be Lyme disease, ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis. There’s also Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, Hepatozoon, Babesia, and probably others that aren’t even diagnosable right now. There’s probably diseases that when more tests are developed, we’re going to find out that more diseases are caused by tick borne diseases.

The diagnosis is made on seeing the tick, and these ticks can be really hard to see. Finding a brown tick on a chocolate lab is pretty darn impossible. So you can’t find every single tick. The nymphs are almost translucent when they’re baby ticks, so it can be really hard to find. The disease spread that we diagnosed are beginning to be diagnosed on blood tests. So there are tests that can be done in your veterinary clinic and at the reference labs to check for Anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesia, all those things. Many veterinary clinics run these in house. If the snap 4DX test comes back positive, then there’s a confirmatory test called a C6, and that gives you basically a titer. If it comes back less than 30 we know that that dog is does not have an active infection, even though they might have a positive Lyme test. But if it comes back higher than that, then we’re going to be chasing that down, making sure that that dog’s on appropriate antibiotics, doxycycline, to reduce the risk that they develop Lyme disease in a chronic form. The other things that we do to test for things like Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichia are a complete blood count, a CBC, to look at the platelet and the red blood cell numbers and dogs that are sick with any of these tick borne diseases will often have lameness and fever.

Many of these dogs have dual and triple infections. You may find that they’re positive to two or three of the tick borne diseases. I have clients all the time, they’re like, “Well, I don’t have ticks, I don’t ever find ticks, I don’t need to use these products.” And then their dog comes back positive for one, two or three of these diseases. Clearly they have ticks. You can live in town and still have ticks. I see deer walking through the front yards of people’s homes in subdivisions. So don’t assume that you don’t have ticks just because you haven’t found one. They’re out there and they’re pretty prevalent.

What to Do if You Find a Tick on Your Dog

If you find a tick on your dog, you can use a pair of tweezers and get right down against the skin to remove it or otherwise, the tick key works really well. You slide the tick key over the tick, and it glides right off.  There are other devices on the market as well that slide over the tick and then can remove it without squeezing the tick’s body. You don’t want to do this barehanded, and you don’t want to squeeze the tick’s body because basically what you do if you don’t appropriately remove the tick, what gets left behind is the saliva of the tick that causes inflammation. I don’t worry about leaving the head behind. You’re not going to do that. The head comes out. But what you don’t want to do is squeeze the tick’s body because basically you’ve just injected Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, whatever, right into the dog’s circulation. So be very careful when you’re pulling the tick off. Prevention and treatment are the same, Revolution (Selamectin), Frontline, Bravecto, and lawn care.

Dogs and Ticks

It’s pretty hard to spray to get rid of all the ticks, but if you can keep the grass trimmed and the trees trimmed, that helps. Ticks don’t fly. They don’t fall out of trees. They’re on long vegetation. People can often wear clothing that has DEET impregnated into it they can use tick control products as well. Obviously, people aren’t going to be using Revolution, Frontline and Bravecto on themselves, but they are on their dogs. So tick treatment and prevention for dogs are basically the same thing. And again, guinea fowl, if you want to really annoy your neighbors, get some guinea fowl, some of those hens. They’re really quite loud but they do a good job with tick control.

Is the Lyme disease Vaccine Safe for Breeding Dogs

Yes, just not during pregnancy. I try not to vaccinate anything during a heat cycle just in case there is an adverse event. But yes, we do use Lyme disease vaccinations in our breeding animals.

Dogs and Lice

Lice come in two versions, chewing and sucking. Now lice are not nearly as common as fleas and ticks, but we do have to mention them to be complete. Chewing lice have a broad head, sucking lice have a sucking head. It’s narrow and they can drill into the skin. Either way, they’re kind of annoying little creatures. Most people associate them with poor hygiene, but unfortunately they happen more often than we’d like. They do live their whole life on the pet, so the louse attaches to the dog, walks around and either bites it or chews on it. They lay eggs. The eggs attach to the hair, and then they hatch out into a nymph and then they turn into an adult.

Can Dogs Get Lice from Humans

Now, what’s really important about lice is that human lice cannot live on dogs and dog lice cannot live on humans. So it’s very specific to the species, what kind of a parasite you have. So if your child comes home from school of head lice, you need to treat your kids and you need to treat yourself, but you don’t need to treat the dog or the cats because they don’t get lice from our kids. It’s a little confusing that a human louse is human louse and dog louse is dog louse and bird louse is bird louse. So lice are very species specific.

How to Tell if Your Dog Has Lice

Dog lice symptoms include scratching, biting, licking, chewing on the neck. Hair loss can be visible. The lice are visible to the naked eye. Sometimes it requires magnification to see them well. The nit is actually the louse egg, and it glues to the hair of the pet.

Dog Lice Treatment

Treatment for lice on dogs is the same as for fleas, Frontline, Revolution. Permethrins are good, but not during pregnancy and lactation. Again, the Seresto collar and Advantage products not labeled for pregnancy lactation. And if you do have nits on the coat, rinsing after a bath with vinegar will help loosen those nits on dogs and get rid of those, short of shaving the dog or the cat. You’re not going to get rid of the nits, so the vinegar will help quite a bit in loosening those.

Dog Ear Mites

Ear mites on dogs are a lot more common than lice. Ear mites are mites that live in the ear. We can see different kinds of mites. There are ear mites, scabies mites, demodex mites and cheyletiella mites. All of them require magnification to see so that you can actually see what they are doing. Ear mites really prefer living in cats ears. Rarely do we see them in a dog’s ear. They might start off in a dog’s ear and set up housekeeping there. And very quickly the environment changes in the ear of the dog. So the mites tend to move out, but they will live in cats ears for decades, so they really like cat ears. Again, the life cycle is pretty similar. They have an adult they mate, they lay eggs, they hatch out, and then you have more. So typically it’s about a three week of 3 to 4 week life cycle on all of these creatures.

The importance is that dogs that have it probably were in contact with cats that have it, and these rarely can be zoonotic, meaning they really, really, really rarely live in a human’s ear.

Signs of Ear Mites in Dogs

Signs of ear mites in dogs are typically scratching at the ears. Brown discharge and in dogs it’s going to look just like a yeast infection. So it’s a little bit hard to tell that it’s different. So that’s why I think a lot of people think their dogs have ear mites as if they see brown discharge. And if they saw brown discharge in their cats ear, they assume it looks the same in a dog’s ear. And that’s not true. Typically, those are yeast infections in the dog’s ears. Ear mites in the cat’s ears looks like coffee grounds. It’s a really odd looking kind of discharge.

Ear Mite Treatment for Dogs

When treating ear mites, you have to treat all the contact animals. You can use Milbemycin or ivermectin in the ears. Any time using ivermectin or Selamectin  you want to be careful in the white-footed dogs, particularly the collies, the Shelties, the Corgis, anything with white feet because those, the Border Collie, those are all dogs that are ultra-ultrasensitive to ivermectin and Selamectin. Revolution, which is Selemectin, can be used every 2 to 4 weeks for 4 to 8 weeks to get rid of them. Frontline, Bravecto, or any of those will work. Any really oily ear medication will suffocate the mites. So Tresaderm, any of those are going to work pretty effectively. And again, remember Advantage or Simparica, not in breeding animals, although it does do a good job, you don’t want to use that in your breeding animals.

How to Prevent Ear Mites in Dogs

For ear mite prevention in dogs basically avoid exposure. If you have barn cats that have ear mites, don’t let your dogs go out and play with them.

Dog Skin Mites

Demodex, scabies and cheyletiella are all skin mites on dogs. Demodex and scabies live in the hair follicles. Cheyletiella is on the surface of the skin, sort of like ear mites live on the surface of the ear. They require skin scrapings to be diagnosed. We usually take a dull scalpel blade, take a scraping across the skin of the dog or the cat where the hair is missing, and then look at it with some oil under the microscope, and we will see these little creatures. Demodex, like almost all of these, has a lifecycle of adult to egg, to larva, to nymph. But, they live deep in the hair follicles. Scabies live also very deep in the hair follicles and scabies mites are really hard to find on skin scrapings.

If you have a dog with demodex mites, you’re going to very easily find those mites, but scabies mites can be very, very difficult to find and down deep in the hair. So you’ve got to scrape multiple times down to the point of finding blood. Cheyletiella lives on the surface of the skin again, the same lifecycle adult, egg, larva, nymph.

Demodex Mites on Dogs

Typically most of the dogs that have a large numbers of demodex in their hair follicles are immunosuppressed in some way, or they have an inherited immunodeficiency, a B cell deficiency. Demodex is most commonly seen around the eyes where we see a lot of hair loss and on the feet.

We do have great drugs, so we can very easily eliminate demodex from the dogs, as long as the dog is kept on long term medication. It’s not something that you’re going to cure. But if the dog is on long term medication, if they’re on Bravecto, 4 doses a year, and you’ve got this under control. My concern is that some of the dogs with demodex now we may not even know have demodex because we’re using Bravecto, Permethrins, Simparica, NexGard so often that if we have a dog that comes in that might have demodex or might have scabies and we can’t find it, we’re going to put them on one of those four drugs. So we may be masking the fact that some of these dogs have demodex, have an immune suppression disorder. We may be breeding these dogs unintentionally. If you suspect that your dog has demodex, make sure you get a diagnosis before you put that male or female in a breeding program, because we know that some dogs with demodex and that is an inherited condition.

Scabies on Dogs

Scabies is also called red  mange, kind of a slang term for it. We can see dogs coming in with their entire coat gone. They’re intensely itchy. They can lose all the hair on their entire body. It can be very dramatic of the amount of hair loss that you get with that. Scabies is seen most frequently on the edges of the ears. They get really, really scaly. Ear edges and elbows, and people will see it on their hand, the webbing in their hand or around their waistband where their elastic is. If I have a dog that comes in that’s really itchy and the edges of the ears and the elbows are bad, I’m going to assume it’s scabies unless I prove otherwise. Diagnosis is with a microscope, for demodex and scabies requiring skin scraping. They are sometimes hard to find.

Walking Dandruff on Dogs

Cheyletiella on dogs is sometimes called walking dandruff. It’s uncomfortable and not nearly as serious as scabies and demodex because it lives on the surface of the skin. But people can develop rashes from scabies or from Cheyletiella. We can see those causing lesions on people, but they typically don’t stay on a human for an extended period of time. Human scabies stays on people long term, but dog scabies will not.

Cheyletiella can be anywhere on the body. With good magnification and good lighting, you actually see the dandruff moving around. They’re also called hair clasping mites. There’s different terms for these, but they’re all mites. To diagnosis Cheyletiella, we just take a piece of Scotch tape and stick it onto the coat and pick up some of those little pieces of walking dandruff, put it under the microscope, and we can see the mites. Every now and then, I’ll find Cheyletiella on a stool sample because the dog was biting itself. Itchy, uncomfortable. Bit the hair, swallowed and then it’ll come through on the stool sample. So sometimes we’ll find them there, too.

How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of Mites on Dogs

Demodex requires a lifetime of treatment for some patients. Scabies and Cheyletiella are short term, so if you can get rid of the mites, you’ve got it taken care of.

You can use Revolution, Selamectin, ivermectin, Bravecto. Scabies you can treat with Vet Basics Lime Sulfur Dip. And we’ve talked about them not for breeding dogs. So remember any time after the first three weeks after breeding, I will use the products, but I try not to do anything during the first three weeks.

Do External Parasites Affect Litters

Fleas in particular can affect litters. They are they will walk off the mother and onto the puppies and it doesn’t take too many flea bites to cause flea anemia. Flea bite anemia in puppies, young puppies and kittens. So we absolutely want to make sure that we’re not allowing our puppies and kittens to have those parasites. And of course, ticks. You know, you don’t have to be very old. You can get a tick by when you’re a week old and develop Lyme disease as a baby. So all of those can affect them. We typically don’t see anemia from ticks, but flea bite anemia tends to be the bigger concern in those really young patients.

Can Ticks and Fleas Affect Dog Pregnancy

I’m not sure that the flea or ticks themselves could cause the loss, but we have seen some really sick dogs with Lyme disease during pregnancy and we have certainly lost litters to it. So pregnancy is an immunosuppressive state. So any time that you are walking around with Lyme disease, sitting there with all those spirochetes sitting in your body and your bone marrow wherever they’re sitting, and they get reactivated because pregnancy suppressed your immune system. We can see Lyme disease, a recrudescence or a flare up of Lyme disease. And we’ve had some very, very, very sick females come in during late pregnancy from Lyme disease. We had one that couldn’t walk. I thought she was going to die before we got the puppies delivered by C-section. We can see some really serious stuff.

So the external parasite other than causing anemia isn’t likely to cause disease itself, but the diseases that it transmits, Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, tularemia, you name it. Those are all ugly diseases.

Newborn Puppy Flea Treatment

There isn’t a product on the market that’s labeled safe in those very young patients. If you read all the labels, they’ll say at least 2 lb., at least 4 lb., at least four weeks old. So basically mechanically removing them, meaning you have to shampoo them or comb them to just physically remove those fleas. That’s why you need to do good flea and tick control on mom. I don’t think enough tick product is going to come through the milk to protect the puppies. But if she’s the big target and you’ve done good tick control with your Bravecto, your selamectin, and your Frontline, she’s going to have enough product on her, and the puppies are going to be moving around on her skin enough that the topicals like Frontline will transmit to the puppies. That’s one of the reasons things like Permethrin in it isn’t labeled as use for use in nursing dogs is because those products pick up in the oils of the coat and they will transmit across from the mother to the puppies’ coats. We just don’t have good safety with the permethrin product. So you want to stick to the pyrethrum, so you want to stick to the Frontline, the Revolution, selamectin, those products for your topicals. Vet Basics Lime Sulfur Dip is pretty safe for really young as well, but it’s mostly just physically bathing them with soap and water, combing them out and getting rid of as many face as you can. It’s really awful when you have babies with fleas. It’s not fun to deal with.

Dog Parasite Control Summary

Bravecto is the only one of the four oral products that will guarantee flea free and tick free for 12 weeks. 38% of the fleas will be dead within 2 hours of giving the Bravecto pill, 98% will be free, flea free within 12 hours, and one dose will do the entire 12 week lifecycle. The other products, Simparica, and NexGard and Revolution will require monthly dosing for at least three doses to eliminate the lifecycle. Remember, every one of these lays an egg, hatches out, turns into a nymph, a larva, then a nymph, then into an adult. So for not continuing to treat during that entire lifecycle where you have these parasites coming back. For heartworm medication Sentinel Spectrum does a great job on flea birth control, intestinal parasites. Remember, the fleas are part of the tapeworm lifecycle.

Think really hard about what parasite control products you’re using in your breeding animals. The herbal and natural alternatives, are not reliable, not safe, not tested to be safe. Trifexis is the only heartworm preventive that we see not being labeled as safe during pregnancy and in breeding animals. But Seresto, Simparica, NexGard, Credelio, all of those not tested as being safe. And I have people say to me, “Well, I use them.” Well, you know, that’s probably not a good choice. And I don’t want your dog to be the footnote in the paper that had developed some weird condition because of using a product that wasn’t labeled as safe in breeding animals. So when we have a product that’s tested safe, I think we should support the companies that have put the money into researching drugs that can be used safely on breeding animals so that we can rely on those products when we need them. Otherwise we’re going to end up with products that we just don’t know what their uses can be or should be.

A breeding dog is a dog in your breeding program, if he is six weeks old and he’s going to be your next stud dog, he is six months old. If she is six months old, yes, they are not yet a breeder, but a breeding dog is a breeding dog. It’s an animal intended to be used for breeding. So if you’re planning to breed in the future, if you are actively breeding, if you’re between heat cycles and you’re not breeding this time, if she’s not pregnant right now, if your male dog is not fertilizing females right now, I don’t care. A breeding dog is a breeding dog and I’m not really sure how much more clearly I can say if the dog is expected to produce a litter, male or female, regardless of their age, if they are actively in a breeding program going to be bred at some point. I don’t care if it’s six years later, that’s a breeding dog. We don’t have data on those, so use the information from the companies that have data showing safety studies are present.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

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