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4-H Companion Animal Health


be implemented at the earliest sign of flea infes- tation because fleas multiply rapidly and a small problem becomes a major one in just a few days. While most dogs scratch with fleas, some dogs are also allergic to flea saliva. For them, one flea bite can set off an allergic reaction of severe skin inflam- mation. A flea-allergic dog will require medication to relieve the skin inflammation in addition to flea control.

Ticks are most prevalent in early spring and are most commonly found on outdoor dogs that get into underbrush and wooded areas. Ticks can transmit several diseases (including Rocky Mountain Spot- ted Fever) and should be removed with care. Grasp the tick near its head with a pair of tweezers and pull away from the skin with a firm tug. Do not try to kill the tick first with fire or chemicals. Disinfect the area with alcohol to prevent infection. Ticks should be controlled by daily inspection and removal or, in heavy infestations, by the regular use of chemical dips.

Lice are small, light-colored parasites that are transmitted dog to dog. They can be seen at the base of the hair. Signs of lice infestation (pedicu- losis) are a rough and dry haircoat, matted hair, and scratching and biting of the skin. Lice are effectively treated with a variety of chemicals available from a veterinarian.

Mange mites cause two types of mange in dogs. Sarcop- tic mange is caused by the sarcoptic mite, a microscopic parasite similar to a chigger. These mites are transmitted from dog to dog and can also infect human skin. They burrow into the skin and cause severe itching and consequent skin irritation and inflammation. Hair loss can be severe and generalized over the body. Diagnosis by a veterinarian is essential, and treatment is usu- ally quite effective. All animals in contact with the infected dog should be treated at the same time.

Demodectic mange is caused by demodectic mites that destroy the hair follicle in which they reside. This causes small patches of hair loss that can spread to the entire body. The initial skin le- sions may become infected and are difficult to treat.

The tendency to develop demodectic mange is thought to be hereditary. It is seen most frequently in purebred dogs. Demodectic mange is not con- tagious. Diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian are necessary; treatment is difficult.

Ear mites tunnel in the skin of the outer ear ca- nal. They are easily transmitted from dog to dog or cat to dog. They can be seen in the ear with magnification. Ear mites are suspected when dark coffee-ground debris is present in the ears. Infesta- tion signs are head shaking and scratching at the ears. Left untreated, ear mites predispose the ear to secondary bacterial infection. Treatment requires cleaning of the ear by a veterinarian and use of mite-killing insecticide. Be sure to treat any other cats or dogs in the household.

Other Common Problems

Ear infections are a common problem in dogs, especially those breeds with a heavy earflap. Infections are caused by bacteria or yeast that grow in the ear when the ear’s normal environment is changed for any reason. Ear mites, ticks, and water or grass awns in the ear can be predisposing factors. (Grass awns are slender, bristlelike ap- pendages on the tips of many grasses. Dogs can

get them in their ears as they run through fields.)

Signs of ear infections are head shaking, pawing or dig- ging at the ear, pain, redness, and inflammation of the ear canal, and a foul smell in the ear. Any ear infection should be examined by a veterinarian for proper treatment. To prevent ear problems:

  • Examine your dogs ears at least once


    • Try to prevent water from getting in your dog’s ears when bathing the dog.

  • Ask a veterinarian for advice on wax

control and routine ear cleaning.

Dental problems arise frequently and need at- tention. Drooling and/or foul odors coming from the mouth are signals. Regular veterinary advice and maintenance programs are necessary to prevent this disorder.


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