External parasites live on a puppy’s body. They are diagnosed by physical examination and skin tests.
Fleas: Puppies may get fleas from their mother or from their environment. Examine your puppy for fleas during routine grooming. If you think your puppy has fleas, consult your veterinarian for a safe and effective treatment.
A puppy infested with fleas scratches or bites himself frequently. Small red spots may show up on his skin. Black specks (flea dirt) may cling to the fur on his neck or rump. Fleas may also cause allergic dermatitis, which shows up as encrusted lesions on the puppy’s skin. Since the flea spends less than half his time on your puppy, the only way to fight flea infestation is to treat both your puppy and his environment. Depending on where you live, the flea season can last many months, and you don’t want your puppy to be in misery.
There are several ways to combat fleas. A flea bath or dip by the veterinarian or groomer is the most efficient treatment for serious problems. Another solution is to bathe your puppy thoroughly, and then follow up with flea spray or powder which is labeled safe for puppies. But never buy these products at random. Certain combinations of insecticides can be harmful. Recent innovations have brought new, easy-to-administer treatments and preventative measures for flea control. These are available through your veterinarian. Ask your veterinarian for a safe and effective flea-control plan to follow. You must also wash your puppy’s bedding in hot, soapy water. Use flea-killing room foggers according to your veterinarian’s instructions to make sure all newly born fleas are destroyed.
Clean the carpeting with a commercial rug cleaner safe for dogs. Vacuum thoroughly and throw away vacuum cleaner bags. Consult a professional exterminator if the problem gets out of hand.
Ticks: Bites from certain ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme Disease and other diseases. A puppy is most likely to pick up ticks in wooded areas during spring and summer. If you live in a region that has a large tick population, you (or your veterinarian) may apply a tick-repellent to your puppy’s coat. If you find a tick on your pet’s skin, you can reduce the chance of infection by removing it promptly and carefully. Wearing protective gloves, use tweezers to grasp the tick near its head and pull the tick out. Make sure the head is removed. Dab the spot with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to prevent infection. Your veterinarian can determine if further treatment is necessary.
Lice: Lice can be controlled through most flea sprays and powders. Use only those that are safe for puppies.
Mange Mites: The most common types of mange mites are sarcoptic and demodectic. The mites live on the dog’s skin or in hair follicles, and are not visible to the naked eye.
Sarcoptic mites lay their eggs in tunnel-like formations under the skin. The dog scratches and rubs until the skin becomes dry, thickened, and wrinkled. Hair falls out and crusts form while itching is very severe. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to both animals and humans and must be treated by a veterinarian promptly.
Demodectic mites live in the hair follicles. They cause skin lesions with either bare spots or pustular areas. Either variety of mange mites can spread quickly and may be difficult to cure. Follow your veterinarian’s advice for treatment.
Ear Mites: Ear mites can cause your puppy to scratch or paw at his ears or shake his head. They can lead to secondary ear infections and are highly contagious to other dogs. You can detect these pests by checking your puppy’s ears for dark earwax or material resembling dried blood or coffee grounds. If your puppy has mites, he will need veterinary care.
Ringworm: Ringworm is very contagious and can be transmitted to humans. It’s caused by a fungus and appears as oval, bare patches on the puppy’s skin. To help prevent ringworm, limit your puppy’s contact with other dogs. Your veterinarian can treat ringworm with medication.