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Pocket Pet Parasites

October 01, 2014

Did you know that pocket pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, and gerbils can be infected with parasites just like dogs and cats? Here, a Cambrian veterinarian tells you about some of the most common offenders and what to do about them.


We’re used to hearing about dogs and cats being bitten by ticks, but pocket pets are at an equal risk, especially if they spend time outdoors. Many rabbit owners, for instance, let their pet outdoors for some grazing time. This is prime time for a tick to latch on. If you do take your pet outside, always check the body thoroughly once you’ve come back in. If you find a tick embedded in your pet’s skin, call your veterinarian for further advice on how to safely remove it.


Pocket pets can easily get fleas, just like most other mammalian pets. Rabbits and ferrets are actually the most common pocket pets diagnosed with flea infestations. Since anemia can result if a flea infestation is left unchecked, it’s important to seek veterinary treatment quickly. Under no circumstances should you use a flea treatment that’s designed for dogs or cats, as they’ll be far too strong for your pocket pet.

Mites and Lice

Most pocket pets are susceptible to mites and lice, which can cause hair loss, scabs, skin irritation and inflammation, and severe itching. In some cases, the pests can even be transferred to humans, so it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian immediately. Ear mites are particularly common, and can cause itchy ears with a black crust.

In most cases, mites and lice can be easily treated with the proper medication and cleaning regimen. Ask your veterinarian for more information on how to manage your pet once he’s been treated for lice or mites.

Parasitic Worms

Worm infestations aren’t as common in pocket pets as fleas or mites, but it’s certainly possible. Ferrets are actually at risk for contracting heartworms, just like dogs and cats can. Ask your Cambrian vet for more information on roundworms, flatworms, and other pests that may affect your pocket pet.