Vet's corner

Dog parasites


Welcoming a new dog into your home can also lead to other not-so-welcome visitors. Parasites can lead to serious health problems so you should quickly establish a prevention regime. Vet Brian Faulkner describes the most common parasitic infestations and how to manage them.

Fleas

Tiny, brown-black adult fleas feed from your dog by sucking its blood. Besides causing your pet considerable discomfort, a heavy infestation can lead to serious skin problems.

As well as from other cats or dogs, fleas can be caught from bedding, carpets or soft furnishings on which an infected pet has shed flea eggs. You can also accidentally infect your dog by bringing fleas into the home on your clothing or shoes.

Fleas are usually easy to spot. If you’re not sure, groom your dog with a fine-toothed comb over moist, white kitchen towel. If the droppings turn reddish-brown, your dog is likely to have fleas.

Your vet can tackle fleas safely and effectively but you will also need to treat your house thoroughly with an appropriate spray to prevent them coming back.

Prevention is much easier than dealing with an established infestation, so make sure your dog and all other dogs and cats in the house are regularly dosed with a good-quality flea treatment. Ask your vet if you need advice on which to choose.

Lice

Lice are very small but can usually be seen by the human eye. Keep an eye out for little white dots in your dog’s hair too – these are lice eggs (or nits).

If your dog has lice, will probably also notice them scratching intensely, and their coat may look dry and patchy.

The simplest and most effective treatments come in the form of ‘spot-on’ drops – ask your vet for advice, especially if you suspect your dog may have had lice for a while. Some infestations will require more than one treatment.

Mites

These tiny parasites are usually spread by direct contact to the skin. Watch out for vigorous scratching and scaly, flaking or inflamed skin.

Washing bedding and grooming equipment regularly can help prevent the spread of mites. If you suspect an infestation, your vet can easily treat your dog with an insecticidal spot-on.

Ticks

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that can attach themselves to your dog’s skin when you are walking him or her in long grass or in woodland. It’s important to remove ticks promptly as they can cause an abscess and pass on diseases, such as Lyme disease.

Removing ticks safely is harder than it sounds and is best done with a tick-removing tool as otherwise the head can remain embedded in your dog’s skin. Your vet can help you with this and recommend an appropriate preventative treatment – these are usually in the form of a ‘spot-on’ preparation.

Worms

Every dog is susceptible to worms, no matter how old they are.

Types of worms include:

  • Roundworms and tapeworms – these live in the gut and can cause irritation and diarrhoea. You might also see your dog rubbing its bottom on the floor or ground.
  • Lungworms – these live in the respiratory tract and can be very serious. Dogs that eat slugs or snails and chew grass are susceptible.
  • Hookworms – these can be dangerous as they steal nutrients from your dog and can lead to anemia or spread to the lungs in heavy infestations.

Worm-related disease can pose a risk to humans, too, particularly among children. Roundworms, for example, can be contracted by accidentally ingesting the parasite’s eggs from soil containing the faeces of an infected animal, and can – in very rare cases – cause sight loss.

To prevent infection, adult dogs require treatment every three months. If you’re unsure what treatment is suitable for your new dog, consult your vet.


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