Common Pet Parasites

If your pet seems sick, itchy, or uncomfortable, it could be common parasites causing the problem. These small organisms live by feeding off of our cats and dogs. They may drink their blood or feed off their skin cells, causing irritation, illness, or even death. 

Parasites are tiny, sometimes even microscopic, and often contagious between pets. Some parasites can even carry deadly diseases that can be transferred to humans. That’s why it is important to keep an eye out for these dangerous pests, and take the necessary precautions to protect your cat or dog.   

Parasites fall into three categories: Internal, external, and intestinal. Here are a few common parasites in Maryland to keep an eye out for:


Fleas are the most common parasite seen in indoor cats and dogs. This external parasite feeds on your pet’s skin and fur cells. So if you notice him itching a lot, check his fur for tiny brown bugs. 

This parasite is most commonly picked up from other infected animals. Fleas and their larvae can also live in bedding, rugs, carpet, and toys. 


common pet parasites - ticks

Ticks are flat, round bugs that burrow their heads into the skin and drink the blood of the host organism. They commonly live in warm crevices on the pet’s body, such as behind the ears, between the toes, and around the perianal area. However, they can really attach anywhere and hide under your pet’s fur.

Ticks typically live in grassy, wooded areas, so you should always give your pet a thorough check if he ventures into these areas. Check yourself too – these nasty parasites can jump to humans and potentially spread disease.


Mites describe a variety of parasites that live on your pet’s skin. Scabies and mange are two examples that can cause itching, scabbing, and fur loss. 

Ear mites are also very common, appearing like coffee grounds in the ear canal of your pet. If left untreated, this parasite could cause deafness. 


Heartworms spread through infected mosquito bites. This is an extremely dangerous parasite because of the way it infests the most vital organs – the heart, lungs, and major arteries. It can be deadly, but thankfully it is easily preventable.

If your pet is coughing, excessively panting, or acting weak, fatigued, and restless, you should bring him to a vet immediately – It could be heartworms or another serious condition.

Other Common Intestinal Parasites

Other common Maryland parasites will live in the intestines of your pet. This includes roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia. Symptoms of intestinal parasites include diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the stool, weight loss, and lethargy. 

If left untreated, intestinal parasites can lead to malnutrition, infections, and even death.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Parasites in Pets

Though it is frightening (not to mention icky) to think your pet has a parasite, the good news is that affordable treatment and prevention methods are available.

External parasites can often be diagnosed by a simple examination from the vet. Ticks have to be manually removed, and the vet will test for associated diseases. Fleas can be cured with special shampoo, and over-the-counter topical medication can be used to prevent further infestation.

On the other hand, internal parasites require analysis from a fecal or blood sample. Dewormer medication will be prescribed to help your pet fight off the parasites. 

Parasite Prevention For Pets

The most effective way to prevent parasites from attacking your pet is to keep him up to date with his vaccinations. In the spring and summer months, apply anti-tick and flea medicine to their fur. 

Cleaning up your pet’s waste regularly is another way to prevent parasite infestation. 

If your pet is adventurous, be watchful of where he explores and what he gets into. Check him regularly for external parasites, and train him not to drink from outside sources of water. Finally, keep him away from stray or fully outdoor pets.

Learn more about how to keep your pet safe outside on our blog!

Veterinary Parasite Treatment in Frederick, MD

If you suspect your pet has a parasite, or he is due for his vaccinations, call Old Farm Veterinary Clinic

Our team of kind and caring vets have years of experience treating and preventing parasites. Conveniently located in Frederick, Maryland, we can help your furry friend live a long, healthy, happy life.

Call now to learn more!