Sykesville Veterinary Clinic

Make an Appointment


How to Prevent Parasites from Harming Pocket Pets

Common pests and parasites that usually infest cats and dogs can also affect pocket pets, such as guinea pigs, ferrets, gerbils, hamsters, and rabbits. Unfortunately, the medications that work for your other pets may not be the best treatment for smaller animals.

Preventative care in these cases is crucial. Here are the various parasites that can harm pocket pets and the preventative actions you can do to keep them safe.

Mites and Lice

Excessive itching, flaky skin, and hair loss are commonly caused by mites and lice in rabbits, ferrets, and even rats. Red, itchy ears with a black crust could be due to ear mites, which can be transmitted from cats and dogs to pocket pets. Mites and lice can also transfer to humans, so treating the infestation should be done as soon as possible upon discovery.

If you think your pocket pet has mites or lice, visit your vet for a physical examination and ask for recommended medicines you can apply. You also need to thoroughly clean and sanitize your pet’s beddings, cage, and surroundings. Additionally, you need to make sure to give them new food and beddings to prevent re-infestation.


Fleas are most commonly found in cats and dogs but they can also infest ferrets, rabbits, and small rodents. Unfortunately, these parasites can cause severe anemia in small animals because of the amount of blood they ingest. Fleas can also transmit serious diseases, such as typhus, which can affect humans.

To prevent a flea infestation, ask your vet for year-round flea and tick control products that are safe to use around pocket pets. Wash, vacuum, and clean each room where they most commonly reside in for best results. Contact your vet as soon as possible if you think your pet has fleas and make sure you don’t use flea treatment products intended for cats or dogs on your pocket pet.


Worms are not as commonly observed in pocket pets as other parasites, but they can affect smaller mammals nonetheless. Your pet ferret, for instance, can become infected with heartworms, a parasite that can cause serious problems if not treated right away. Diarrhea and other symptoms can signal the presence of worms, which your vet can confirm in an exam.

Prevent the possibility of spreading worms by always washing your hands after handling or cuddling your pet. It’s also important to keep your pet’s beddings, cage, and eating areas clean and sanitized. There are medications to treat worms in small animals. Heartgard, for instance, is given to pets infected with heartworms.


Pocket pets allowed to go in the backyard, such as rabbits and ferrets, are susceptible to ticks. Because these parasites are known for being disease-carriers, make sure to check your pet for ticks every time you allow him or her to go outside. Once you find a tick on your pet, call your vet immediately so you can be instructed you on what to do next; do not attempt to remove the tick yourself.

Although infestation from these common parasites can be treated, keeping your pocket pets from them in the first place is still the best way to go. Make sure you take them to the vet for their annual physical checkup so you and your veterinarian can catch potential problems before they become worse.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Sykesville Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.