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Feline Parasites

Fleas, ticks, worms and more

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Parasites come in many sizes, shapes and levels of "severity" for our pets. This collection of parasites are those commonly found on dogs and other species, sometimes affecting humans (called a zoonotic disease).

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1. Cheyletiella Mites

Cheyletiella mite close-up view By Kalumet on Wikimedia Commons
By Kalumet on Wikimedia Commons

Cheyletiella are mites that live on the skin, causing irritation, dandruff, and itchiness. A distinguishing feature of this mite species are the large, claw-like mouth parts. These mites can be found quite commonly on cats, dogs and rabbits, and other species. Though humans are not a natural host for this parasite, Cheyletiella mites can happily live on humans for a while, causing an itchy rash.

2. Cuterebra Parasite - An Opportunistic Parasite

First instar larva of Cuterebra, a genus of botfly. Credit: CDC/ Dr. George Healy
Credit: CDC/ Dr. George Healy

A Cuterebra parasite is an opportunistic parasite found under the skin of small mammals. This parasite is the larval stage of the Cuterebra fly, who uses animal hosts to complete its life cycle. Learn more about this parasite, most commonly seen in summer and fall, in this FAQ.

3. Ear Mites

Image (taken through microscope) of ear mites sampled from a cat's ear. Credit: Wikimedia Commons /
Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Caroldermoid

Ear mites are tiny parasites that live out their life cycle mostly inside the ear canal. They are quite common, and can cause severe irritation and itchiness of the ears.

The most common ear mite of cats and dogs is Otodectes cynotis, and therefore an infestation with ear mites is sometimes called "otodectic mange."

4. Readers Respond: Tell us about dealing with ear mites in cats

Has your pet been diagnosed with ear mites? Please share your story - what did you notice first, was your pet's treatment successful?

Please note: This is a space to share your story (not Q & A) with other viewers. Please see the ear mite article and ask your vet about pet-specific questions and treatments.

5. Fleas

Electron micrograph image of a flea
Image © Center for Disease Control (CDC)

Fleas. They make pets' lives miserable, and humans begin to itch just at the thought of them. Vets are often asked what pill, drop, dip, collar, or shampoo works the best to get rid of these persistent parasites. The answer is that there is no single method or insecticide that will completely eradicate (or at least control) a flea problem. The flea life cycle is fairly complex, and understanding the various stages will make it easier to get rid of them.

6. Giardia

Giardia lamblia protozoan parasite - Copyright CDC/ Janice Carr
Copyright CDC/ Janice Carr

Giardia is a one-celled protozoan parasite that lives in the intestinal tract of many animals. When this parasite produces a diarrheal disease in animals (including humans), it is called Giardiasis. Learn about this parasite, how it is transmitted, signs of disease, and how it is diagnosed and treated in this FAQ.

7. Heartworm

Mosquito by edans on Flickr
by edans on Flickr

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that lives mainly in the blood vessels of the lung and in the heart, transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworm disease has been seen in several species, but dogs are very susceptible. It can be fatal and is difficult to treat, but fortunately heartworm disease is easy to prevent.

8. Readers Respond: Dog and Cat Heartworm Disease and Treatment

Mosquito by tanakawho on Flickr
by tanakawho on Flickr

Heartworm disease is caused by a worm that lives mainly in the blood vessels of the lung and in the heart and is transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworm disease is found in several species. Dogs are very susceptible and cats are at risk, too. Heartworm can be difficult to treat and sometimes fatal, but fortunately Heartworm disease is easy to prevent.

Please share your experiences with your pet's Heartworm diagnosis and treatment.

9. Hookworm

Hookworm parasite - Ancylostoma braziliense mouth parts. Credit: CDC
Credit: CDC

Hookworms are intestinal parasites that are relatively common in cats. There are a few species of hookworms that affect cats, and some can also affect humans by migrating within the the skin.

10. Whipworm

Eggs of Trichuris trichiura and Trichuris vulpis - Whipworms Credit: CDC
Credit: CDC

Whipworms are intestinal parasites that are relatively common in dogs, but only occasionally seen in cats. Whipworms are small worms, reaching a maximum size of 2-3 inches. They have a thin, whip-like front end and a thicker back end. They attach themselves to the walls of the large intestine, feeding on blood.

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