Fleas are small, reddish-brown insects that live on animals and feed off their blood. They are very common and are the most common cause of skin disease in both cats and dogs. It is only the adult stage of the flea that lives on animals; the other stages are present in the animal’s environment.
And adult female flea will start to produce eggs about 24hours after getting onto the pet. She produces a staggering 40-50 eggs per day and she lives for about 21 days unless the animal can get rid of her. This takes a lot of energy so she feeds voraciously and produces a lot of poo, which you can see in the coat as little black specks close to the roots of the hair. The eggs are small white and shiny and they will drop off the dog, along with the flea poo, into the environment. The eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars, which can be seen by the naked eye, which feed of the poo as this contains blood and essential nutrients for the developing larva. The larva will moult a couple of times and then pupate forming a small cocoon. This cocoon will remain dormant for up to 2 years and cannot be killed other than by boiling or freezing. The cocoon is exquisitely sensitive to the presence of a suitable host and the adult will emerge and jump on as a suitable host wanders past. Within 24 hours the adult flea will start to produce eggs again. The life cycle of the flea can take as little as 2 weeks during hot weather or over winter when the heating is on so treatment is necessary all year to prevent infestation.
There are many treatments available for fleas, most of which tackle the adult stage of the flea. Presently, there are no known insecticide resistant strains of flea in the UK or EU outside of research laboratories and the main reason that treatments might be thought to be failing would be large environmental infestations so as quickly as adults are being killed by insecticides they are replaced by emerging adults from cocoons. Please ask your vet what they recommend to make sure that your dog remains flea free.
Fleas can also pass on another parasite – tapeworm, so it is worth treating your dog for this at the same time.
Dogs can pick up ticks from overgrown areas and moorland especially where there are large numbers of sheep and deer present, most commonly in the spring and autumn seasons. If you take your dog walking in this environment it is essential to check them over for ticks when you arrive home, particularly long haired breeds. Run your hands over their body – ticks will appear as bumps. The sooner they can be removed the greater the chance of preventing disease and any discomfort it will cause you dog.
Ticks need to feed by sucking blood from a suitable host just before they are ready to moult and enter the next stage of their life cycle. They will attach to a suitable host and feed for several days before detaching and dropping back into the undergrowth where they then moult and carry on the rest of their life cycle. Ticks themselves are not too much of a problem for animals, however, some of the will be carrying disease organisms in their salivary glands or digestive tracts and can regurgitate these organisms into the host to cause disease. These diseases include Lyme disease and babesiosis. It is thought that the ticks feed gently for the first 48 hours so there is reduced risk of disease transmission but after this, feeding becomes more vigorous with increased risk of transmission. Ticks must be handled gently during removal as if they become stressed, they are more likely to regurgitate and transmit disease. Removal of ticks is best achieved by a special tool called a tick hook that is placed under the mouthparts and rotated. This action closes the jaws of the tick allowing it to be removed quickly and painlessly. It is very important not to apply anything directly onto the tick to kill it prior to removal, as this is likely to stress it causing regurgitation. However, some pesticides, which are recommended for control of ticks, will slowly kill them once they get onto the dog and these are safe to use.
Your puppy should be given an all-round wormer every two weeks until they are 12 weeks old, these should then be given monthly ongoing throughout their life. All puppies are born with worms; they cross the placenta and transmit when the puppy suckles the mother’s milk.
After six months the worming treatment you give will depend on the flea treatments you give your dog.
Practicing proper hygiene (washing hands before meals, not sharing cutlery or crockery with the dog, scooping the poop, etc.) should be enough to prevent children and adults catching anything sinister.
There are many useful instructional videos on YouTube.
(depends on brands. Ask your Vet for advice)
|Roundworm||Every month/4 weeks|
|Tapeworm||Every 6-8 weeks|
|Hookworm (penetrates dog’s feet)||4 weeks|
|Heartworm (not in the UK)||4 weeks|
|Ear mites||4 weeks|
|Biting Lice||4 weeks|
|Mange Mites||4 weeks|
There are various types of parasitic worms that affect dogs, which are detailed below.
Roundworm can be picked up by your dog from contaminated soil or from the mother. They live in your dog’s gut, are white and round and can grow up to 15cm. Puppies are born infected with roundworms as it can also be passed across the placenta and through a mother’s milk. Often you won’t see any outward signs of infection but symptoms can include a potbelly, poor coat, diarrhoea and poor growth.
Did you know, it has been recorded that 2 puppies in a 24 hour period produced 1.9 million worm eggs, which can only be seen by a microscope?
Tapeworm is a life style infection picked up from eating dead, infected animals or infected fleas. They are long and flat, growing up to 60cm and live in your dog’s small intestine. The most common intermediate host for tapeworms is the common flea. You may well not realise your dog has the infection as there are rarely outward symptoms. Problems caused by the infection may be seen in your pet scooting across the ground as the egg engorged segments of the tapeworm break off and wriggle out of the dog’s bottom causing irritation. Other signs include diarrhoea or vomiting.
Worms are very common and to prevent your dog contracting the infection regular deworming should be carried out. Treatments can be purchased via your vet or over the counter.
Lungworm is another parasitic infection that affects dogs. It is transmitted through slugs and snails, which can be picked up easily by dogs whilst out and about. Adult lungworms reside in the heart and pulmonary arteries and in rare cases can be fatal for dogs. Infection can be asymptomatic but other signs include coughing, tiring easily, weight loss and bleeding problems.
A full recovery is anticipated if dogs are treated early enough but prevention is the better than cure. You should give your dog lungworm prevention on a monthly basis. Treatment can be purchase from you vet or through other pet suppliers.
Ringworm is not a worm but a fungal disease. It is not common in dogs (mainly in terriers) but it is highly contagious and can be passed on to humans.
The infection is spread through contact with ‘spores’ which are carried on the hairs of infected animals. Not all dogs will show signs of the infections but all may be carriers and can pass onto other pets in your home. Puppies are more commonly infected, with the risk also increased in sick or older animals.
The disease typically affects the face and front paws and your dog may haves sore or crusted areas here. It may also have patches of hair loss. You may notice your dog scratching and chewing at its hair which can lead to the dog getting hairballs or constipation. If you suspect your dog is suffering from ringworm take it to your vet who can prescribe drugs for the infection and topical creams for any external sores.