We're lucky in Montana to have relatively little trouble with parasites compared with warmer, more-moist climates. But, they do exist here in Montana, and can cause severe, even life-threatening illness in many animals. The most common parasites we see in our area are ticks and intestinal parasites, but occassionally we do also see fleas, lice and mites. In fact, ear mites in young cats is very common in our area, and nearly every puppy and kitten has intestinal worms, as well.
You may have seen many ticks like this one. It hasn't had a chance to feast on you or your dog yet.
This gluttunous tick managed to stick himself somewhere it didn't get noticed for awhile...
A scraping of his skin revealed a common problem.
This Boston Terrier was brought in for a chronic skin condition.
He was suffering from Demodex, a parasitic infection unique to dogs. A similar, but different, species of Demodex can infect humans, but fortunately (!) canine Demodex cannot be spread to humans.
There are several different kinds of mites which can infest our canine friends.
Frosty, this cattle dog, was infested with the mites on the left. She felt a lot better once we gave her mites the eviction notice.
Looking under the microscope, we found the culprit.
This poor poodle cross had a gang of parasites giving her the business where she couldn't even reach them!
Zooming in, we can even see the blood meal the louse has stored away in its gut. Again, the good news for us is that lice are species-specific: That means the lice your dog gets cannot be spread to you--or vice-versa!
Heartworms in a dog heart
Fortunately, there are effective ways to rid your pets of these unwanted hitchhikers. But, careful thought must go in to combating these pests, as some treatments can have serious side effects. What works for one parasite might not work for another, so it is also important to carefully identify which type of parasite your pet is infested with to be sure your dog or cat is not unnecessarily treated with ineffective medications. For these reasons, most medications for parasites are by prescription only.
Treatment with over-the-counter medications without an accurate parasite identification by your veterinarian is often unsuccessful and can occassionally make your pet sick. And, over-the-counter medications are often inferior in quality, potency, and effectiveness.