Parasite Prevention: Andrew’s Tips

It’s that time of the year to remind everyone that our pets can become host to creepy crawlies!

Not the most pleasant thought in the world, but here is the good news – apart from being the largest, your pet’s skin is the easiest of their organs to look after. All you need to do is use your eyes, learn what is normal for your pet, and make a skin examination part of a regular routine.

After all, what could be easier? You stroke and cuddle your pet every day, so simply add to this a mental note to check their skin visually for lumps and bumps every week (and after walkies) and you are both winners!

Here’s a quick recap on the top 3 external parasites to be aware of:


– 95% of the flea’s life cycle is spent in your home, not on your pet, so this is your first line of defence.

– Flea pupae can’t be killed with chemicals so hoovering is the way forward – everywhere your pet likes to hang out. (Don’t forget the cracks if you have wooden flooring!)

– There are many spot on solutions you can use on your dog and cat as well as some house sprays that kill flea eggs/larvae/adults but remember, your home is key.

– Checking your pet: Use a comb to gently brush against the fur direction (base of tail usually a popular flea location) a few times. Then moisten a bit of kitchen towel and in one movement, use it to wipe the comb. If you see even a slight red/brown tinge around a bit of dirt, then this is flea dirt, also known as digested blood from your pet. You can use this simple test to monitor any treatment and to check generally.


These can be even nastier to both you and your pet, so be vigilant.

For You

Ticks are known to transmit Lyme disease. The ‘good’ news is that the tick needs to be on you for 24-48h before it can transmit so best to follow this good advice from the government whenever you are out walking. Most people who get Lyme disease do not even recollect being bitten so best to carry out a full ‘tick check’ on both yourself and your pet after every walk.

For Your Pet

Check your pet after every walk as ticks can also transmit nasty diseases to your pet. Also use a spot on that treats both ticks and fleas and/or use a collar that does.

If you do see a tick, do not attempt to pull it off with your fingernail as the tick’s head can be left behind. Instead, use a simple tick remover (have one in your pocket) and remember to twist anticlockwise when using it.


While your vet can prescribe some treatments to kill harvest mites, these are tricky as there isn’t a currently a licensed treatment made specially for them. Flea and tick remedies will have no effect.

Harvest mites are part of the spider family and can be seen with the naked eye, as orange dots or clusters. They can occur anywhere but tend to prefer the hairless, thinner areas of skin such as the paws, abdomen and ears.

If you notice a sudden onset of itching in the months of August and September, this could be due to pollen allergies but harvest mites should also be considered.

Your pet will usually not notice a few mites, but will start itching once the numbers grow and the larval mites become active. The problem with these pests is that once they have matured, the only sign you will see is a non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation) with no obvious cause.

What can you do?

Mites are generally active when it’s warm and dry so the best time to walk your dog is in the early morning or late evening.

Mites are also seen in the same spots as ticks (overgrown grasses, bushes, thick vegetation) so avoid these when you walk. Speak to other dog walkers you see – local knowledge can be useful as harvest mites tend to populate certain specific areas. If you’re not sure whether or not the area you’re in is prone, try not to let your dog sit or lie for an extended period of time as this is a common way for dogs to get heavy infestations.

Andrew Bucher

Dierenarts en mede-oprichter van Medicanimal

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    1. Hi Mary, delighted you enjoyed the article and thank you for sharing it with other dog walkers. Have a great Sunday, Andrew

  1. My cats skin has become inflamed and itchy. He has been treat with frontline for fleas and ticks so am wondering if he has been bothered by harvest mites as he spends a lot of time outside. I have bought a herbal relief remedy called Stop The Itch by AstiLife to try and calm it down as he is tearing himself to bits (getting him to stay long enough to apply it is another matter). Is there anything else I can do for him? Many thanks

    1. Hi Donna,
      Although harvest mites are on the list of possibilities, it is good to see if more common causes can be ruled out. Some cats can become incredibly sensitive to flea saliva and it can just take one bite to bring on a reaction, even if the flea then leaves. Have you seen your veterinarian about your cat’s skin being inflammed and itchy? Thanks, Andrew

  2. Hi, I wondered if there are any other treatments for fleas for dogs as my Springerdoodle has reacted to different types of the spot on treatments.
    She becomes hot to the touch , not just at the application site but all over. She pants and continually walks up and down for about 8 hours .
    So I really cannot risk using them.

    1. Hi, best to see your vet as there are some prescription tablets you can give to your dog rather than a spot on.
      May do the trick?

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