Articles Index/Parasites
Revised 06/09/99


External parasites include fleas, ticks, lice, and mites. Insects that live on your dog's skin not only cause irritation but also can infect the animal with disease. Some can also infect humans.

FLEAS: If your Norfolk has fleas, you probably already know it. They are usually easy to see, but a fine-tooth flea comb run through the coat will bring them to the surface. Fleas feed on your dog's blood, cause itching, and, if swallowed, can also transmit tapeworm eggs. If fleas are present, you will also see tiny, black, gritty particles of flea excrement in the coat. Depending on where you live, the "flea season" can last many months, and since these pests spend most of their time off the dog, you'll need to treat both your pet and his surroundings. Wash his bedding in hot water every week or two, thoroughly vacuum all carpets and crevices (throwing away the vacuum-cleaner bags afterward), and treat your Norfolk with a flea powder, spray, or dip recommended by your veterinarian.

[Editor's Note: There has been a revolution in the control of fleas with the introduction in the mid-nineties of topical and oral products such as Advantage™, BioSpot™, FrontLine Top Spot™, Program™, and Sentinel™. Some require veterinary prescriptions. As with all medications, these have their considerations for use and individual dogs may have adverse reactions. So consult your vet. Also, you can find information by searching veterinary and dog care sites on our Dog Link Index.]

TICKS: There are many kinds of ticks, but fortunately in most areas they are not as common as fleas. A tick bite can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease to humans and dogs. When you find a tick on your Norfolk's skin, grasp the insect as near its head as possible with tweezers and pull it out. dab the spot with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to prevent infection. Checkpoints for ticks on your dog are the head, insides of the ears, the neck, and the groin. With Lyme Disease, the dog can be lame or stiff and generally acts "old." Fortunately the response to antibiotics is usually effective.

MANGE MITES: The two most common mange mites are sarcoptic and demodectic. The mites live in or on the dog's skin or hair follicles and are not visible to the naked eye. Sarcoptic mites lay their eggs under the skin. The dog scratches and rubs, the skin becomes dry, thickened, and wrinkled, the hair falls out, and crusts form. Itching is very severe. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to both animals and human beings and must be treated by a veterinarian. Demodectic mites live in the hair follicles and cause skin lesions with bare spots and pustular areas. Either variety of mange mite can spread quickly, but demodectic mange is slower-acting, recurrent, and more difficult to control than sarcoptic. Follow your veterinarian's advice for treatment. Fortunately, mange is not common among Norfolks.

DANDRUFF MITES (CHEYLETIELLA): Cheyletiella mites are relatively large in size and most commonly are found in puppies. Symptoms: itching, scratching, and the appearance of white, scaly dandruff, usually extending from the base of the tail upward along the middle of the puppy's back. Frequently referred to as "walking dandruff," cheyletiella dandruff can often be seen with the naked eye or a magnifying glass as tiny white specks or flecks moving through the fur. It first appears in two-to-three-week-old puppies and is highly contagious among litters. Bathe your puppy two or three times with a flea shampoo to eradicate this condition. (Most of these containing pyrethrins are particularly effective.) Dandruff mites are fairly common among Norfolk litters but are easy to control.

EAR MITES: Ear mites, which dogs often contract from cats, cause an animal to scratch at or paw his ears and shake his head. You can detect these parasites by checking your Norfolk's ears for dark wax or a material resembling coffee grounds or dried blood. Your veterinarian can prescribe an ear-drop medication that can be administered over a specified period until the problem clears up. remember, ear mites also live outside the ear, so flea powders and medicated flea shampoos are good precautions.

From The Norfolk Terrier, 2nd Edition, by
Joan R. Read. © 1994 by Joan R. Read. Excerpted
with permission of the estate of Joan R. Read


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