What are the main parasites that affect dogs?


11 January 2016
While there are dozens of possible parasitic infections that can affect pet health, some are more common than others.


1. Roundworms

Roundworms are parasitic creatures that live in the intestine of a dog, and they are large, white worms with cylindrical bodies. Some puppies will be born with roundworm after being infected by their mother in the uterus. However, the infection can also be picked up through their mother's milk or after consumption of infected soil containing roundworm eggs. Try to stop your dog from eating poo and soil. It is also worth remembering that roundworm can be transmitted to humans if they accidentally swallow eggs.

Preventative measures are important and they can be administered by a vet during a series of appointments or by you in the home - but it is imperative to remember these treatments when they are due. To help you manage your dog's health - and to ensure you never forget a vital roundworm treatment - the Bayer Pet Life App allows you to store vital information about your dog and their various healthcare appointments. You are then reminded when vital treatments are due through an on-screen notification on your mobile.

2. Fleas

Fleas are tiny blood-sucking creatures that are picked up from other dogs or from infected homes or outside from other wildlife. If your dog brings fleas into your home, there is a very good chance that your carpets, upholstery and any other pets you might have will become infested very quickly. Fortunately, preventative action can keep fleas at bay, so consult your vet to set up a prevention plan.

3. Ticks

Ticks are tiny creatures that burrow their mouthparts into the surface of a dog's skin in order to feast on its blood. Ticks usually wait in long grass for a passing animal to latch onto, so you should always check your dog for them after long walks in the countryside. Among the symptoms of tick attachments is a skin irritation on and around the site of attachment. Ticks can also transmit diseases such as lyme disease, so it is important to quickly remove them using a tick hook. Your vet will recommend treatments designed to kill or repel ticks, as prevention is better than cure.

4. Heartworm

Although heartworm is not found in the UK or Ireland, it still poses a threat to pets travelling to and from other parts of the world. Heartworms are thread-like creatures that live in the heart and pulmonary arteries of dogs. Transmitted by infected mosquitoes, heartworm can cause a range of health problems in a dog, including breathing difficulties, high blood pressure, severe lethargy and even death.

5. Hookworms

These nasty creatures attach themselves to the lining of the intestine and suck blood. Among the symptoms of a hookworm infection are diarrhoea, anaemia and lethargy. Hookworm infection is usually passed to dogs through the infected poo of other dogs and foxes, or by eating a host - such as a small mammal. In some rare cases, hookworm larvae can penetrate the skin, particularly on the feet.

Content continues after advertisements
6. Tapeworms

Tapeworms are long, intestinal parasites that dogs get through the consumption of fleas or after scavenging carcases of livestock. Tapeworms live in the small intestine, and release segments of their body that contains eggs. Infected dogs will pass stools that contain these visible eggs - often described as ‘crawling rice grains'. While many dogs will show no symptoms of a tapeworm infection, others will experience sickness and diarrhoea, as well as irritation around the anus.

7. Whipworm

Whipworms have a whip-like tail and a thick head, and they burrow their way into the wall of the large intestine to feed on blood and tissue. Dogs become infected by eating eggs, which are usually found in the poo of infected dogs. Among the main symptoms of hookworm infections are diarrhoea and stunted growth.

8. Lungworm

Lungworm is a parasite that is carried by slugs and snails. If a lungworm infection is left untreated, it can cause serious health issues, including death. Dogs can pick up this nasty parasite after accidentally swallowing slugs and snails, or potentially even their slime trail on toys that have been left outside. Regular preventative worming treatments are essential to combat this threat, which is spreading around the UK and it is vital to check with your vet that the chosen worming product is effective against a particular type of lungworm, called Angiostrongylus vasorum. Around 2.5cm in length, lungworms live in the heart and pulmonary arteries, and they cause a range symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive bleeding, loss of appetite, weight loss, coughing and even death.

9. Demodex

The mite Demodex canis lives on the skin of dogs, and it is spread from a bitch to her pups through direct contact. However, the mite is not contagious after this short period. Infected puppies will carry these mites on their skin in low numbers for the rest of their lives. For many dogs this will not cause a problem but for some, in particular those that become immunosuppressed with other illnesses, they will increase in number and go on to cause skin disease. The symptoms of an infection include hair loss and inflamed patches of skin.

10. Sarcoptes

The sarcoptic mange mite is an eight-legged creature that will spend its entire life on the host. A sarcoptes infection is known as mange, although the human equivalent is referred to as scabies. Extremely contagious, the sarcoptic mange mite is contracted through direct contact with an infected animal. The symptoms of a sarcoptic mange infection include intense itching, skin irritation and redness. The areas of a dog's skin usually affected by this extremely nasty parasite are the abdomen, groin, elbows and lower limbs and the infection can spread from these areas over the whole body. Following noticeable itching the first visible signs of an infection could be wrinkling and scaling of the skin.

Picking up parasitic infections is part and parcel of being a happy and inquisitive dog. As long as you take preventative steps using the guidance given from your vet, your dog should live a happy and healthy life. If you require more information about parasitic infections and methods for prevention, visit - itsajungle.co.uk

Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by Bayer – ‘It's a jungle'. The Pet Life app is part of the "It's a jungle" programme from Bayer, which aims to help you keep your pet parasite free. For more information, please visit - Itsajungle.co.uk.