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Various worms, fleas, ticks, and mites are the main parasites we encounter commonly in or on our pets in this country.

Some have potential to cause health problems for children, pregnant women and ourselves. It is therefore important, not only for our pets, but for our families and Public Health reasons, that we keep these parasites at bay.

In order to choose products with high effect and safety, please be guided by our nurses and vets.

Common Canine Parasites in the UK

Fleas

If you have a furry pet, soft furnishing and some heating in your house, you can easily have fleas there too. Once arrived, an adult flea can lay up to 30 eggs each day, and with a lifecycle from as short as 12 days, the numbers rapidly multiply. In just a couple of weeks there is the potential for one flea to increase to a population of 900 and these can all be completing their own lifecycles. With central heating, they are very happy to multiply all year round.

Most of the flea lifecycle happens OFF your pet and in the carpets and soft furnishings. So, if you see any evidence of fleas on your pet – it may be just the tip of the iceberg!

If a house has had fleas present in the past, then for up to 2 years afterwards, animals entering that house can become infested with the fleas. So if you are moving house, check if any animals have been there in the past year.

Signs of fleas:

  • You may well see nothing, because your pet is grooming off the evidence and eating the fleas.
  • You may see flea dirt. This is digested blood and if you place it on a damp white tissue, it will dissolve into a pink/brown stain.
  • Scratching, itching and excessive grooming are the most common signs.

Problems associated with fleas:

  • Fleas can cause irritation. A significant number of pets (and their owners) can also become allergic to fleas, and so the irritation is multiplied, and can end up with large sore areas and fur loss, which require additional treatment.
  • Tapeworms can be passed on through grooming off a flea; these are worms that feed themselves in your pet’s gut.
  • Severe anaemia is seen from time to time, mainly in the very young or very elderly that have a large flea burden.
  • You can get bitten! The fleas would prefer your pets, but you’re still fair game, and some people react badly to bites.

Treatment/prevention:

It is far easier to prevent fleas than treat them. Treating an infestation can involve multiple treatments applied to your pet, rigorous cleaning of soft furnishings on a 60˚C wash and sprays for the home to prevent further eggs hatching. Prevention involves applying treatments at regular intervals and is therefore much easier!

Roundworms

Roundworms live in the intestines and feed on the gut contents.

In puppies, they can get them across the placenta before they are born, in their mother’s milk, and from licking any tiny deposits of poo from coats of dogs with worms. They can cause a puppy to be just less healthy; but if the burden is high, they can be quite seriously unwell.

It is fair to assume that all puppies under 6 months of age will have some level of roundworms and so they should be regularly treated. The easiest protocol to remember is to treat monthly, using a product that is suitable for their AGE and WEIGHT. At first vaccination, we can include a specific combined flea, worm and mite preparation free of charge.

Adult dogs also have round worms. They can get them from grooming, coming into contact with other dogs, going to the park, or from your shoes. Therefore, even if they do not go out, they are at risk. Adults can often live with their worms without showing obvious symptoms, but it is still not ideal for either you or your pet for the worms to be present.

Public Health Issues:

Visceral Larval Migrans. This is when roundworms enter a person, move around and cause damage. The classic example is blindness in a child due to a worm in the eye.

Hookworms

Hookworms live in the intestines. They hook onto the intestinal wall and feed on your dog’s blood.

They can cause mild signs such as diarrhoea, lethargy and poor appetite.

Dogs can become infected through contact with infested fox/dog poo. They can also penetrate the skin e.g. of the feet.

Whipworms

Whipworms are similar to hookworms in that they live in the intestinal walls and feed on blood and tissue fluid. Again, they mostly cause mild intestinal disease but the effects can be more severe in younger or immunocompromised animals.

Tapeworms

These are similar to roundworms in that they live in the intestines and feed on the gut contents. The tapeworm segments can sometimes be seen as wriggly rice grains around their bottom or tail. Your pet is at risk of getting tapeworms either from ingesting a flea, or from eating raw meat such as birds, rabbits, mice and rats. So make sure your pet has regular flea control and whether they choose to ‘supplement their diet’ or not, remember to worm them regularly.

Outside the UK, the types of tapeworms can be much more dangerous to ourselves, and so if your pet travels, you will be required to have him/her officially treated before coming home.

Lungworm

Lungworm is a growing problem in the UK. We see cases in our surgeries, and the numbers of cases are rising. WE HAVE HAD FATALITIES IN YOUNG DOGS.

The worms are picked up from infected slugs or snails, or their trails. Therefore, if your dog eats them, chews grass, or has a favourite toy or bowl in the garden, there is some risk. The larvae then migrate from the gut to the lungs where they are coughed up, and then swallowed. They then emerge in the faeces, to start the whole process again for another dog.

The effects of these worms are from moderate to life threatening. Classically they can cause lung damage and a cough. However, they can also cause haemorrhages (as the blood can no longer clot properly), seizures and fatalities.

We recommend treating monthly for lungworm and we can advise you on which parasite treatments are most appropriate for this.

Fox Mange

This is also known as scabies and the mite that causes it is called Sarcoptes. These burrowing mites cause the dog a lot of discomfort and will cause the dog to often scratch areas red raw! Affected dogs become progressively more itchy, scaly, bald and smelly. They can easily pick it up from other infected dogs or foxes, or from where these have been in the past 5 hours.

Sometimes owners can pick up these mites and you may need to go to your doctor if you think you are displaying signs of a scabies infection. Remember to tell them what your dog has, otherwise they may not think of it. Avoid close contact with a dog with mange; this is especially important for young children.

Luckily, treatment is usually quite simple. It is IMPORTANT to be seen by your vet for diagnosis, as there are other different conditions that can cause similar signs, but require different treatments or further tests.

As with most of the other parasites, prevention is better than cure, and we have different parasite treatments that can cover for this mite and it is important that these be kept up regularly.

Ticks

Ticks live amongst long grasses, especially in areas that house hedgehogs, sheep and deer. They are seasonal to the UK between the months of March to November. They jump onto passing hosts in order to attach and drink their blood. They often cause a sore raised lump, which should fade over a few weeks. Larger reactions are seen, and may need extra attention.

Ticks can also spread other diseases such as Lyme disease in the UK and other serious diseases from the Continent. Ticks are not easy to remove without the correct technique or tool. You risk leaving mouthparts in the skin if the ticks are removed incorrectly and ticks can re-grow their bodies! So even leaving just mouthparts in essentially means the tick is still in there. We have found the O’Tom Tick Remover to be excellent and relatively easy to use. It’s cheap and it works. Remember to follow the instruction… TWIST, do not lever out the tick. They are available from our surgeries.

Although some of our standard parasite treatments do not cover for ticks, we have a variety of products that do. It may be that you only need to use these during tick season or if you are visiting certain areas where tick exposure is higher (e.g. South West England). We will be happy to advise you on which treatments to use and when.

Ear Mites

Ear mites live in your dog’s ears and are closely linked with the occurrence ear infections and generally dirty ears! Signs include lots of wax and discharge from the ear, head shaking and scratching at the ears. There are some preparations which protect against ear mites as well as treat them. The best way to the treat them is to drown them too and so routine ear cleaning can be a prevention in itself and we can help show you the best way to clean your dog’s ears. However, there are lots of other reasons for the signs of ear irritation including allergies, infections and foreign bodies. It is therefore best to come and see your vet first, as delaying treatment for the other causes can result in unnecessary discomfort and stress. Contact your local surgery to make an appointment.

Demodex

This is a mite that lives in the depth of the hair follicles and causes areas of hair loss or sore feet. It is more common in dogs less than a year of age, and in certain breeds such as Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. However, it can affect any breeds and all ages. If it occurs in an adult dog, we usually look for additional problems that underlie the Demodex.

Luckily, this mite is not zoonotic so does not affect humans- we have our own version of this mite!
There are many, many causes of hair loss, so best to see your vet to sort out which one is affecting your dog and what treatment is needed. Contact your local surgery to make an appointment.

Less Common Canine Parasites

Cheyletiella

This is a surface running mite that is more commonly seen in rabbits, puppies and kittens. It causes dandruff and irritation. We can take a simple sample to look at under the microscope, and then we can sort out the treatment. This mite can also bite people.

Lice

We occasionally see these, especially on spaniel ears flaps. Seek your vet’s advice and treatment.

Harvest Mites

These appear as tiny orange specks on the toes or in a tiny fold on the edge of the earflap. They can cause intense irritation and sores. Ask your vet for help.

There are other parasites that can affect dogs. If you are contemplating travelling or emigrating abroad, please contact us before you go.

Protection against Parasites

For specific, tailored advice for your pet, please talk to our nurses or vets. We know there is a lot of information and it can be confusing trying to find products to cover all the basic parasites but we will be happy to help you find the best routine parasite treatments for your pet.

Look at joining our 608 Pet Health Club to have all the common parasite control sorted along with your pet’s vaccinations with a simple monthly payment. Special Pet Health Club rates apply not only for these, but also for diets, shop items, consultations, blood tests and dental work.

To order your dog’s flea and worming treatment please visit our pharmacy. Please note: some of our flea and worming treatments are by prescription only and require veterinary approval.