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At some point in their life, your dog may experience the discomfort caused by parasites. Some parasites such as ticks and fleas are fairly easy to spot, but what about those that are internal and not so easy to diagnose?

It is important to know about these parasites and check for them regularly as they can become incredibly irritating to your dog and may cause serious health problems further down the line. Some parasites are also zoonotic (meaning that they can be passed on to humans), therefore should be kept on top of in order to keep the whole family healthy.

Types of parasites in dogs

There are two main categories of parasites in dogs: internal parasites and external parasites. These may include:

Ticks

Ticks are tiny parasites from the arachnid family that latch on to your dog and drink blood. They can vary in size from 1mm up to 1cm and will usually be noticeable by running your hand over your dog’s head, neck, ears and feet. A tick bite will feel like a small bump on your dog’s skin.

Hookworms

Hookworms are intestinal parasites that commonly cause anemia and can be fatal, particularly in puppies, if left untreated. Hookworms are very small, but ingest a large volume of blood when attached to the intestinal wall.

Roundworms

Roundworms are very common in dogs and can be diagnosed with a fecal sample. There are two types of Roundworm; Toxocara Canis, and Toxascaris leonina. The former is more common in puppies and if left untreated, can cause poor growth and can be fatal. It can also be spread to humans.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are caused by dogs eating infected fleas, or consuming wild animals that have been infected. Once consumed, the tapeworm egg hatches and attaches to the intestinal lining.

Fleas

Fleas are very common and can easily be picked up on walks or infected environments. We commonly see them when clients move into new homes that have previously had untreated pets in. Your dog’s skin may appear red and bumpy if it has fleas, especially if it has been scratching more than usual.

Mites

There are a few different types of mite infestations in dogs; canine scabies, ear mites, Demodex, and Lice (walking dandruff). Such mites are usually not a problem, unless your dog has a compromised immune system. Mites are usually treated with a simple monthly chews.

Giardia

Giardia is a common intestinal parasite that affects both cats and dogs, as well as humans. It affects their ability to absorb nutrients, causing diarrhoea and weight loss. Your dog can contract Giardia via ingestion of contaminated water, faeces or eating something that has been contaminated, such as grass.

Symptoms of parasites in dogs

Symptoms of parasites will vary by type, and will also vary in severity. Whilst some symptoms are not visible to the naked eye, it’s important to routinely check for signs of discomfort and distress. If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Symptoms of internal parasites in dogs

Internal parasites tend not to show symptoms until the infestation has become severe, but may include:

  • Loose stools and/or diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Distended abdomen
  • Visible worms in faeces
  • Respiratory issues
  • Malnutrition and loss of appetite

Symptoms of external parasites in pets

Many symptoms of external parasites are clearly visible to the naked eye:

  • Increased, excessive scratching
  • Excessive chewing
  • Red, inflamed, or discolored skin
  • Hair loss
  • Restless behaviour
  • Fleas
  • Large amounts of debris in your pets ears

Treatment for parasites in dogs

It is vital that you regularly check for parasites in your dog as, left untreated, it may cause serious health problems. Preventative care and regular faecal exams are a good way to help catch infestations in their early stages.

If you suspect that your dog has an internal parasite, immediately consult your veterinarian. They will be able to diagnose the problem and administer treatment. Although there is no single medication that treats all parasites, these may include:

  • Deworming medication
  • Shampoos and ointments
  • Surgery
  • Antibiotics

How to prevent parasites

Whilst treatments are available, it is better (and easier) to prevent parasites before they take hold.

Preventative medication

Check with your vet which parasites are particularly problematic in your area and administer preventative medication year-round to reduce the risk of infection.

Regularly monitor your dog for symptoms

Keep an eye on your dog’s health and regularly check for symptoms of parasites. Consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

Keep your home clean

To reduce the risk of contracting parasites we recommend cleaning your pet’s bedding, food and water bowls at least weekly, as well as cleaning the lawn of faeces every few days. Similarly, pick up your dog’s faeces during walks to reduce the risk of passing on parasites to other dogs.

Annual veterinary check-ups

Preventative care is vital to ensure that any parasites and infections are caught early and treated effectively.

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