Regular parasite treatment is an integral part of your dog’s routine health care, from puppyhood to old age. Parasites come in all shapes and sizes, and all can be harmful to your dog’s health if left untreated. Internal parasites, like worms, live inside your pet’s gut, whereas external parasites live on your pet's skin, and include nasties like fleas and ticks.
Fleas are small, wingless insects that can make your dog’s life miserable, and large infestations can cause serious health issues such as anaemia and allergic dermatitis.
A flea has four life stages, however, only the adults like to hang out on your dog, running through their fur, causing them to itch and scratch. The females grab a quick bite to eat (some blood!) and then jump off to lay eggs in the environment, such as on carpet and bedding, or in the sand or the kennel. Therefore, treating the environment at the same time as treating your pet is very important; otherwise, a new wave of itchy critters will soon emerge, and they don’t mind jumping on humans as well as your dog!
Flea treatments for dogs come in many forms, such as spot-on formulas and oral tablets or chews. They will often be combined with medications for other parasites such as intestinal worms, lungworms, and ticks.
Ticks are tiny external parasites that survive by sucking blood from other species, including dogs. To feed they burrow their mouthparts into the skin and stay attached while they eat, before dropping off into the environment to complete their lifecycle. Ticks are common in forests, grasslands, and parks, and will be busiest in the springtime. They can be tricky to find, especially in very hairy dogs, and they prefer tight dark spots, such as between the toes, or in the ears.
Ticks can carry many infectious diseases, so it is best to remove them as soon as possible.
Removing ticks from dogs should be performed carefully to avoid leaving the head behind, or squeezing the tick, which can inject toxins and diseases. A specially made tick removal tool is the safest option, and your veterinarian can show you how to use this successfully.
The best option is to prevent them from biting in the first place! Tick prevention can be achieved with spot-on treatments, chewy tablets, and collars. Make sure you only use these products on dogs, as some dog products can be very toxic to cats.
If you have a feline friend, head over to our cat-specific page, to learn more about feline parasites and treatments.
Common worms in dogs include tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm which all live in the gut. Dogs can also get heartworm which lives in the vessels around the heart, and ringworm, which funnily enough, is not actually a worm, but rather a fungal skin infection! All worms can cause significant health issues in your dog, and some worms can infect your human family too, so dogs need to be treated regularly for worms throughout their life, especially when they are young.
Treating worms can be achieved by using spot-on treatments, oral chews, or worming tablets for dogs, and you can find products that will combine a wormer with medications for ticks and fleas as well.
Parasites are a common problem for pet parents, but luckily, most are easily prevented at home. Not all parasites will live in your area, and a visit to your local veterinarian can help tailor a program specific to you and your pet.