If you’ve got a dog and a cat at home, you know that it’s always easier when your dog and cat are buddies …
… but with this togetherness comes a risk for shared illness.
This is especially true when it comes to cat and dog parasites: worms, fleas, even scabies. These are issues you need to deal with ASAP.
So, here’s a roundup of common parasites, natural treatments and prevention tips when to comes to pet-to-pet transmission.
5 Common Cat And Dog Parasites
Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition that’s traced to mites, the microscopic cousins of spiders and ticks. Typically, the bugs favor canines, living on the surface of the skin, often around the ears. However, dogs can transmit mites to cats.
Untreated scabies can invite fungal and bacterial infections. Dog and cat mites can infect people too. You’ll notice red bumps and rashes on your body if you have them. Scabies is another term for sarcoptic mange.
Mite lesions cause:
- incessant itching
- fur matting
- bald patches
- weight loss.
Frequently, dogs bite their skin to try to relieve the itch. The skin may emit a foul odor. Severe discomfort makes pets anxious.
Usually, a mite infestation begins on the head, neck and ears. These initial symptoms are clues to start treatment pronto! Otherwise, the mites will quickly spread body-wide.
Natural Treatments For Scabies
- Before treating scabies, put on disposable gloves.
- To a 16-ounce spray bottle, add ½ cup raw, organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) and ½ cup water, and shake well. Mist a soft washcloth and wipe your pet’s fur with it.
- To target the outer ears, stroke them with a cotton ball soaked in the ACV solution.
Additionally, wash pet bedding in hot water and dry at high heat. If machine washing isn’t possible, you’ll need to discard the bedding. Use the ACV + water mixture to wipe down other pet gear, such as collars, leashes and toys. Getting rid of scabies can take up to six weeks, depending on infestation severity, so be patient.
Your pets will be less prone to mites with a strong immune system. Here how to boost defenses.
- Feed your dog’s friendly intestinal bacteria, also known as probiotics. An especially rich source of probiotics is kefir, a type of cultured milk. The ideal daily amount depends on your dog’s weight – ¼ cup kefir per 25 lbs of body weight. Probiotics also need fiber to survive, present in bananas and green vegetables.
- Supplement with the herb Echinacea.
- Mix olive leaf powder into your dog’s food. Olive leaf extract fights parasites, bacteria, viruses, and inflammation.
[Related] Sarcoptic mange is not the same as demodex mange. Find out the differences here.
These are probably the most well-known – and most hated – cat and dog parasites.
These bugs become house guests by jumping onto people and dogs when outdoors. Since fleas are so teeny, that can also leap through door and window screens and cracks around the frames.
Fleas aren’t picky about animal hosts, so they can easily jump between them.
Once a female flea gets inside your home, she can lay hundreds of eggs. These will rapidly hatch into babies hungry for blood. When larvae become adults, they launch another cycle of feeding on your pets. Be on the lookout for flea waste in your pets’ fur. It resembles black sand.
Flea bites, which are visible as red bumps, cause wicked itching, rashes, sores and scabs. Your pets may constantly lick or nibble their fur to soothe bite discomfort.
Fleas can make your pets anemic by sapping their blood. Broken pet skin is vulnerable to infection.
Control flea populations by vacuuming every two days. This habit will catch fleas as they hatch, occurring every three to 10 days. Note that the bugs can lurk along baseboards and floor cracks. They also favor linens, furniture upholstery, and pet beds, so vacuum them as well.
After vacuuming, empty the collecting bag or reservoir into outdoor trash bins. Otherwise, fleas will reproduce inside your appliance, eventually escaping. To banish fleas on your property, plant repellent herbs, such as catnip, peppermint, basil, marigold, lemongrass, and lavender. You can also mulch with cedar chips.
You can also make your own natural flea repellant. Here’s a recipe.
What you’ll need:
- 1 organic lemon
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig of garden sage
- 1 quart filtered water
- glass spray bottle
To make it:
- slice the lemon into thin rounds
- place the lemon, rosemary and sage in a large stainless steel or glass bowl
- Add a quart of almost boiling water
- Cover and let it steep overnight
- In the morning, strain it into the spray bottle
Refrigerate the bottle – it will last 1 to 2 weeks.
You can spray this fine mist over your dog. Be careful not to get it in her eyes or mouth. You can also spray it on her belongings, including bedding, collar, leash, and toys. Repeat the treatment every three days until fleas are eliminated.
Steps For Natural Flea Treatment
- Give your dog a bath with citrus Castile soap once a week.
- After the bath, use an apple cider vinegar rinse to balance out your dog’s ph. Mix one part vinegar to ten parts water.
- Use a flea comb every day to catch any stragglers.
- At least once a week, wash all of your dog’s bedding in hot water. Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth over all carpets and area rugs, then vacuum.
[Related] There are several other ways to keep fleas out of your house, your yard and off your dog! Find them here.
Like fleas, ticks draw blood and carry diseases, such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. However, ticks don’t jump onto their hosts. Instead, they perch on tall grasses, low shrubs and fallen logs, waiting for passing animals. Upon detecting their scent, warmth, or movement, they latch on with outstretched legs.
Ticks siphon blood by embedding their mouths into skin. While feeding, their bodies expand, resembling small marbles. Once satiated, the bugs fall from their hosts.
If your cat stays inside and acquires ticks, the source could be your dog. Otherwise, you can be a carrier after hiking through wooded and grassy areas. Either way, both your pets can wind up trading ticks.
If your pet has a tick, you may notice her biting or licking the area. A thorough search of her body will help you find it. Ticks burrowed in ears may cause your pet to shake its head.
To remove a tick:
- Sterilize fine-tipped tweezers with rubbing alcohol.
- Wearing disposable gloves, place the tweezers close to your pet’s skin and firmly grasp the bug’s head.
- Slowly and steadily, pull straight up.
- Be sure to remove the tick’s entire head and mouth, without squeezing. Leaving the head embedded allows bacteria to continue entering the bloodstream. Squeezing can also force bacteria into the wound.
- Drop the tick into a jar filled with rubbing alcohol or flush it. Then, discard your gloves, and thoroughly wash your hands.
If a tick’s head is left behind, don’t try digging it out. Within a few days, your pet’s internal defense system will expel the head. Continue checking the bite area, watching for a subsequent rash or irritation.
Warning – Never touch a tick with a hot match, pin, nail polish, petroleum jelly or alcohol. Irritating or smothering a tick doesn’t aid removal.
Don’t allow your pets near tall grasses, fallen logs or shrubs. If you have property, keep your lawn well-mowed and bushes trimmed.
From April through September, if your pets inadvertently stray into grassy and wooded areas, upon returning home, promptly examine them for ticks. Using a flea comb, do a full body check. Since ticks favor warm, moist, dark skin regions, thoroughly inspect paws, groins, underarms, ears, rectums and beneath collars. If you detect a bump with the flea comb, stop and investigate further.
Likewise, have all household members do body checks after walking through potential tick territory.
[Related] Should the lyme vaccine be part of your prevention routine? Here’s why we say no way.
4. Intestinal Worms
When cats and dogs have access to each other’s feces, they can swallow intestinal worms. If your cat goes outside and steps on infected dog waste, microscopic eggs can stick to her paws, and she may eat them when she licks them. Your dog can pick up eggs by nosing contaminated soil and puddles (or from other animals’ poop).
Fleas carry tapeworm eggs. If a pet swallows an infected flea, they acquire the worm egg in the process. Hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms are also common dog parasites. Hookworm eggs can even penetrate skin.
- Roundworms, resembling spaghetti, are tan or white and up to 7 inches long.
- Tapeworms may be visible in a pet’s rectum as yellowed rice grains.
- Hookworms feed on the walls of the small intestine, causing anemia. Signs of infection are skin rash, intense itching, tarry stools, and weakness.
- Whipworms destroy intestinal villi, structures that aid nutrient absorption. The worms also weave themselves into the intestinal lining, feeding on its secretions. The resulting inflammation can cause bleeding.
There are various signs to look for if you think your pet has worms:
- Intermittent or frequent diarrhea or vomiting
- She may have a fever
- She may scoot and lick her rear end
- Your dog may be off her food or be a little lethargic
- Stools may be coated in mucus
- Her coat may be dull
- There may be signs of abdominal pain
- Or you might see squiggly worms or “rice bodies” in his stool
Apple cider vinegar is great for intestinal worms. When diluted, ACV builds up immunity and soothes inflammation. For your cat, add 2 drops ACV to water or food. For your dog, use 1 teaspoon ACV per 50 lbs of bodyweight, mixed with water or food. Do this daily for two weeks.
Thyme is an antiseptic herb that expels worms. Once daily, add ¼ teaspoon ground thyme to wet food. Continue for one week.
Pumpkin seeds have an amino acid called cucurbitacin that paralyzes worms, breaking their grip on intestinal walls. The seeds also exert a laxative effect, expelling worms via stool. Using a food grinder or blender, crush ½ cup of raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds, storing them in your fridge in a sealed container. Then, daily for one week, serve each pet 1 teaspoon ground seeds with wet food.
Diatomaceous earth is made from crushed fossils of freshwater organisms and marine life. It’s deadly to any insect yet completely harmless to animals. Feed small dogs a teaspoon per day and dogs over 55 pounds up to a tablespoon per day. Make sure you use food grade DE, not pool grade. Mix it into the food really well.
One way to prevent transmission of cat and dog worms is to block your dog’s access to the litter box and keep it clean. Stave off tapeworms by eliminating fleas. You can also feed apple cider vinegar on a regular basis to keep the worms at bay as a preventative.
A healthy immune system is also important. When an animal’s immune system is strong it can fight off any invaders and will be less attractive to parasites.
[Related] There are several other everyday foods to add to your dog’s diet to prevent and treat worms. Find them here.
This skin fungus is contagious for your cat, dog and your household members. With no relationship to worms, the condition is named for its red, scaly rings. Fungal spores spread through contact with infected skin, grooming tools, carpeting, pet belongings and soil.
In dogs, ringworm lesions are uniformly round, possibly bordered in red or accompanied by fur loss. Skin may scale, flake, thicken, itch, and crust. Areas typically affected are the abdomen, face, and ears.
Most often, cats develop lesions on the forehead, lips and tail. However, patchy fur loss can be body-wide. Skin flakes resemble dandruff.
Disinfect pet belongings with apple cider vinegar spray. To a 16-ounce spray bottle, add ½ cup each ACV and water. Shake well, and lightly mist pet gear. Note that you shouldn’t apply ACV on broken skin, as it will burn and sting.
Manuka honey is also an effective remedy for ringworm. It’s antibiotic, anti-fungal and antiviral.
Since ringworm spores have a two-year lifespan, regularly clean your pets’ belongings. Frequent vacuuming helps, along with maintaining strong immunity in your pets.
The fungus is commonly spread through visits to groomers and dog daycare centers. If you use such facilities, choose those known for cleanliness. Your holistic vet is a good referral source.
*Note that you can’t use all these remedies interchangeably on both pets. Make sure to check first before giving them to your cat.
May your pets be parasite-free!