Fleas, Ticks, Mites, Lice - External Parasites


Fleas are the most common parasite in pets and unless pets are given flea prevention treatment almost all of them will be affected at some stage in their life. Fleas are unlikely to cause serious harm, but they are a nuisance and very unpleasant, both for owners and their pets. 

Dogs and cats both host fleas which by sucking the animal's blood cause irritation and discomfort. The adult fleas will also happily bite humans too though they tend to prefer our pets. In some cases your pet may be 'allergic' to flea bites and even a very low number of fleas can cause a long standing and very uncomfortable problem for your pet with hair loss and severe itchiness.

What harm can fleas do?

Fleas feed on blood so young or frail pets can become very weak or even die in some cases if infected by fleas.  Fleas can also spread tapeworms and pets can become sensitive to flea bites causing an allergic reaction.Fleas can be a problem in the cleanest home and for the healthiest pets. They can be picked up by meeting other animals with fleas or from homes that contain flea larvae and eggs, (95% of fleas in an environment are in the egg and larval stages).

How do you prevent fleas?

It is easier to prevent fleas than it is to get rid of them once an infestation has taken hold, which is why regular flea prevention treatment is recommended.  Fleas are at their worst in the summer and autumn, although in centrally heated houses they can be a problem all year round.  We’ll happily advise you on the most appropriate product for your pets.

Why is it so difficult to get rid of fleas?

Fleas are small, reddish-brown insects who lead a complex life away from your pet. Only the adult fleas live on your dog and drink its blood; the early stages live free in the environment, i.e. your home. For every flea that you see running through your pet's fur, there may be hundreds of young fleas waiting to jump aboard a passing pet - or if you are unlucky - onto you.

How to treat flea infestation?

When a flea problem is found in your pet we will usually recommend treating the animal itself but also advise treating your house too to eradicate the large numbers of eggs and larvae that will probably be present.

Treating the pet

If your pet has fleas we can recommend a spot on treatment to kill the fleas, larvae and eggs that are living on your pet.

Treating the home

Treating the areas where your pet spends most of its time is also important - particularly the places it lies down to sleep. Washing your pet's bedding in hot water will destroy the young fleas (but not the eggs) so you will need to continue to wash the bedding regularly to ensure that it remains free of fleas.

Environmental flea sprays will kill fleas, eggs and larvae in the carpets.  It’s important to continue to treat your pet and your home all year round, even if you do not see fleas

Fleas can be a real menace in centrally heated homes, particularly if you have more than one pet. Regular treatment with the products that we recommend for your pet should keep fleas under control all year round. It can be difficult to remember to flea treat monthly so you may find it helpful to make a note on your diary or calendar when the next flea treatment is due.


Ear Mites

These parasites are a tiny insect that likes to live off the scale and fluids within the ear of both dogs and cats.  

What problems do they cause?

Ear mites can cause intense irritation leading to severe scratching and secondary ear infections as well as occasionally problems elsewhere on the body.

How can ear mite infestations be avoided?

Ear mite infestations are more common in animals with dirty ear canals and so to avoid ear mites ear canal cleanliness is very important.  Ear mites are spread from animal to animal through close contact and so if one of your pets is infected it is vitally important to treat all animals in your house to stop re infection.

How can ear mite infestations be treated?

Ear mites can easily be prevented with the regular use of a spot on treatment.  An all in one treatment that prevents fleas, worms, ear mites and lice is the most convenient way of keeping your pet free from these irritating parasites.


Mange Mites

What problems do mange mites cause?

Both puppies and kittens can become infected with so called 'mange mites' which cause diseases such as 'scabies' and 'demodectic mange'. These conditions at best can be itchy and annoying to the pet but at worse can actually be seriously harmful and some can also affect humans in contact with the animals.

How can I prevent mange mite infestations?

Different forms of mange can be challenging to diagnose as sometimes the mites themselves are very hard to find and even blood tests need to be used. It is far easier however to prevent an infestation in the first place by correct anti-parasitic treatments.  All in one treatments that prevent fleas, worms, ear mites, mange mites and lice are the most convenient way of preventing all of these irritating parasites.



Ticks are potentially disease carrying parasites that attach to pets as well as people.  They are a bigger problem in the spring and autumn, but actually we see ticks attached to pets right through the summer months also. The exposure to ticks and the risk of infection depends on the area visited and we see far more ticks around North Berwick than other areas in general.  However, any dog or cat that visits woodlands, sheep pastures and heather covered hillsides may be at risk.

Ticks are notorious to hill walkers as they transmit Lyme Disease which we also see in dogs and cats, along with other infections, so any tick infestation must be dealt with immediately or ideally avoided in the first place.



We see lice most commonly in puppies (though occasionally they can occur in adult dogs and cats of any age).

What problems can lice cause?

If left untreated lice can cause anaemia, irritation and dermatitis and general poor health. Lice are species specific and the species that cause problems in dogs and cats won't live on people but will easily spread between pets in the household in the same way as head-lice spread through children in a classroom.

How can you get rid of lice?

Lice are generally very straight forward to eradicate with topical parasiticidal treatments. We will recommend a suitable product for your pet.


Cheyletiella or 'Walking Dandruff'

This is a very common external parasite in dogs and cats and can affect any age group. They are very contagious surface living mites that tend to live over the dorsum or back of the host animal but also very commonly bite people in the same environment.  They can live off the host for approximately 10 days.

The name 'walking dandruff' comes from the fact that as well as causing scurffy skin the mites themselves can be brushed off onto a dark surface where they can be seen moving about looking like small scales seen with dandruff.

How to rid of cheyletiella?

Similar to lice, cheyletiella is usually very straight forward to treat topically.


Parasite Control

For up to date advice on controlling parasites on your pet or in your home please ring your local clinic or our main Haddington surgery: 01620 822262 or Contact Us