As a loving pet parent, you want to make sure your canine friend’s health is cared for.

Any dog owner knows that fleas can be a challenge, causing your animal discomfort and bringing them ‒ and you ‒ down. But there are many other parasites out there which your dog is susceptible to, and many of us don’t know enough about them. From hookworms to heartworms, these invisible bugs can have serious health implications for your pet, so it’s vital to know the symptoms to look out for and how to avoid infection.

Dogs love to run around outdoors, chasing birds at the park or splashing around in water. They love to let off energy, but time spent in nature also makes them more likely to come into contact with parasites in vegetation. Most dogs will become infected with at least one internal or external parasite in their lifetime, and some of these nasty ailments ‒ if left untreated ‒ could become fatal.

Here you can find information about the most common dog parasites, how to spot them, how to prevent them, and how to treat them most effectively. Being observant and acting fast can be the difference between a quick solution or an enormous veterinary bill ‒ or worse.

 

Dog Owners - Parasites Ticks

Fleas can be the bane of a pet parent’s life, but another critter that gets less attention is the tick. These small, spider-like bugs feed on the blood of dogs and other mammals. Not only do they make your dog uncomfortable, but they could transfer any infection that they’ve picked from another host to your dog. If you spot a tick on your pet, the natural instinct is to try to remove it immediately. However, it is crucial to remove ticks correctly. Removing a tick incorrectly could leave the mouth parts of the parasite embedded in your pet’s skin, risking infection.   So how can you prevent ticks from biting your dog? And what can you do to remove them safely if your canine already has them? Let’s take a look.   What are ticks?   Ticks are small, spider-like, egg-shaped insects with large bodies and small biting heads. Like fleas and other parasites, they feed on the blood of animals, but ticks latch on to the flesh of the host, digging its mouth parts into the skin and staying there for as long as it can. A common variety in the United States and Canada is Dermacentor variabilis, also known as the American Dog Tick or Wood Tick. Unlike fleas, ticks are responsible for spreading a range of life-threatening diseases among humans, making it essential to eliminate them from your dog and your home.   How does my dog get ticks?  The most common routes by which ticks could find their way onto your dog are:   Other dogs: Being the social creatures that they are, dogs most commonly catch ticks and other parasitic bugs from their own kind. Sniffing around and playing with other people’s canine pets can allow unlatched ticks to hop from one body to the other.   Wildlife: Has your dog ever chased a rabbit? A raccoon? Wild animals spend all their time out there in the wild, meaning that they are even more susceptible to ticks than your dog. If your dog catches or toys with rabbits, raccoons or squirrels, they could pick up ticks from them.   People: If you like to spend time outside ‒ hiking in the hills or playing field sports, for example ‒ then you could be the source of your dog’s ticks. Humans can easily carry ticks into the home on clothing or in hair, allowing them to get to your pet. Equally, other pet owners who visit your home might bring unwanted visitors with them.   Vegetation: Dogs are active pets. They love to run free in the garden, at the park or in the fields. But contact with grass and bushes means there is a high chance of ticks brushing off onto your dog’s hair or skin.    What are the symptoms of ticks?  Ticks most commonly feed on dogs between the toes, behind the ears, under the legs and around the head and tail, so keep an eye on their behavior and look out for signs of itching and discomfort. Ticks have large white, black or brown bodies, and you should be able to see it attached to your pet’s skin if you inspect the area closely and you can easily feel them if you run your hands systematically through your dog’s fur starting on his head and moving over his body.  How to remove a tick from a dog Removing ticks is not a simple job. Unlike fleas, the complex mouthparts of ticks are purpose-designed to resist removal, so taking a tick out by force risks leaving part of the critter in your dog’s skin. The body of a tick is also soft, and squeezing could put infected blood back into your animal’s system, leading to illness.   Removing ticks is quick and painless if you know how to do it. With rubber gloves on to avoid being bitten yourself, use a specially designed tick removal hook that you should be able to get from your veterinarian or local pet store. The hook has a narrow slot which needs to be slid under the tick at skin level making sure it’s not tangled in the fur and is securely around the tick’s mouthparts. Then rotate the hook several times to gently easy the mouth parts out of the skin.   Bending or twisting could break off the body from the mouthparts, which will then stay lodged in the skin. Place the tick in rubbing alcohol or strong spirit to ensure it is dead, then inspect your dog’s skin closely to check for any remnants. Finish by cleaning the bite with an antiseptic wipe or spray.   Petting your dog during the process to keep her calm will make the job easier for you. Your pet may be calmer if another person pets and reassures them while you work. If you are at all unsure or nervous about doing this yourself, take your dog to your vet who will remove the tick for you.     How to prevent ticks in dogs  The golden rule of tick prevention is to protect your pet’s environment as well as your pet. There is little point clearing your dog of ticks if the house or garden are still infested.   After removing ticks, and with your pet clear of the little biters, clean the house thoroughly. Vacuum all carpets and soft furniture and put the dust bag in a plastic bag before throwing it in the trash outside. Just a small infestation can quickly spread as the ticks will breed.   The same goes for the yard. You might not associate gardening with pest control, but with long grass and wild shrubbery being a favorite place for ticks, keeping the yard tidy and trimmed short can make a big difference to the risk your dog faces when playing outside.   Consider using tick collars and other preventative products for your dog. These collars and sprays contain odorous chemicals that ticks find unpleasant, deterring them from biting. Combined flea and tick collars are also available for double protection.     Tick paralysis - a silent killer Typically, the risk posed by ticks to your pet is limited to some discomfort and a possible infection from any previous hosts. But the females of some tick varieties ‒ including the American Dog Tick, Rock Mountain Wood Tick and Deer Tick ‒ secrete a neurotoxin upon biting which leads to paralysis. This paralysis begins in the lower extremities and spreads upwards through the body, and can pose a risk to life if it affects your dog’s diaphragm, restricting breathing. If you find a tick on your dog and suspect that paralysis may have taken effect, visit your veterinarian straight away. There are also lots of tickborne diseases which can affect humans, so it’s important to regularly keep on top of pest control in your home and ensure you dispose of any ticks you find on your dog carefully. You can find out more about tickborne disease of the United States here.

Dog Owners - Parasites Fleas

Summer is a wonderful time to be a dog owner. But with the hotter weather comes a challenge: fleas. If picked up, the small brown insects can make your dog very uncomfortable and sometimes even downright miserable. The good news is that fleas can be prevented and treated if you take care and follow some simple guidelines. How does my dog get fleas? The most common flea found on dogs is the dog flea, or Ctenocephalides canis, but cat fleas, human fleas and occasionally the sticktight flea will settle for a dog if they can’t find their preferred mammal to munch on. The most common routes by which fleas could find their way onto your dog are: Other dogs: Unlike cats, who are territorial and like to keep themselves to themselves when it comes to their own species, dogs are highly sociable creatures. Sniffing around and playing with other dogs is a common way for your pet to pick up the pests. With the insects’ impressive ability to jump, it’s easy for them to leap from one dog to another and start a new colony. Public facilities: Just as children often get ill after visiting indoor play areas, dog grooming facilities and public kennels can be a hotbed of flea infestation. Always ask these facilities about their flea control policies before using them. Vegetation: Dogs love to be outside. Whether it’s just in the backyard, running around at the park or going wild in the woods, contact with grass and bushes can lead to fleas ‘rubbing off’ onto your dog’s fur.   What are the symptoms for fleas? Keep an eye on your dog’s behaviour. Fleas bites can vary from mildly irritating to very painful, so if your dog seems restless and is frequently scratching, licking or chewing their fur, then they may have picked up fleas. If you inspect your dog’s fur close to the skin (a flea comb can help) you may be able to see them. They tend to congregate around the armpits and groin, base of the tail and around the ears – areas where it is most difficult for the dog to dislodge them and it is warm and moist.   How to treat dog fleas Fleas reproduce quickly, so if your dog has fleas, it’s important to quickly get rid, and keep rid. Your dog loves water, so take advantage of that fact and give them regular baths. Washing your dog in warm water and dog shampoo is the perfect opportunity to go through your pet’s hair with a fine-toothed flea comb, combing carefully starting close to the skin, and remove any fleas that might be lurking. There is also a range of specially-designed treatments on the market which can be highly effective in eliminating fleas on dogs. These range from exterminating spot-on treatments and flea sprays, to more preventative options such as flea collars that contain repellent scents. But always check with your veterinarian to find out what’s best for your dog.   How to prevent dog fleas The golden rule of flea prevention is to protect your pet’s environment as well as your pet. There is little point clearing your dog of fleas if the house or garden are still infested. The good news is there are several easy steps you can take to help minimize the chances of your dog picking up fleas repeatedly: Spray your home and yard: As well as spot-on treatments and flea collars for your pet, there are also carpet and upholstery sprays you can use to kill the eggs and larvae that will be in your home. Remember to spray all your carpets and rugs, behind the cushions, down the back of the couch and along the edges of your fitted carpets as fleas will hide in dark spaces. To be completely effective you need to repeat the treatment 3 or 4 weeks after the first treatment. Clean your home regularly: If you have found fleas in the home, thoroughly vacuum-clean all carpets, rugs and soft furnishings and throw away the dust bag once you finish to make sure every trace is gone. Sweep or vacuum and mop hard floors, and remember to clean under furniture too. Remember, fleas breed quickly, so even a small infestation left untreated could undo all your hard work. Wash your dog’s bedding: Fleas love to be where your dog is, so wash all your dog’s bedding and their toys in hot water to kill any eggs, larvae and adult fleas that might be lurking there. Invest in some flea traps: If fleas occur frequently, consider leaving some flea traps around the home. You can purchase little sticky pads which attract the bugs so they become stuck and eventually die, or a bowl of hot soapy water placed under a bright light overnight can also act as an effective flea trap. But remember, traps can help to eliminate the adult population, but won’t tackle the larvae and eggs in your home, so it’s still important to clean. Keep the yard tidy: Most of us don’t associate gardening with pest control, but the backyard of your home is an ideal breeding ground for fleas. Use a yard spray to clear your outside space of fleas so you don’t carry them back into the house on your shoes and your dog doesn’t get re-infested.