Parasites

A common theme for prevention, cure and control of all conditions is a clean environment, healthy diet and regular veterinary check-ups, and the avoidance of over-the-counter chemical remedies, which, at best, are ineffectual, at worst, often do far more harm than good and have been known to be fatal in very young, sick and elderly dogs.

Internal Parasites

Hookworms are dangerous parasites that live in a dog’s small intestine, ‘grazing’ on the lining of the intestine, leaving multiple bloody holes in their wake. This can lead to anaemia and, if left untreated, can even cause a small puppy to bleed to death.

In humans, hookworms migrate through tissue close to the skin, causing painful, itchy rashes. They cannot be contracted from normal contact with an animal, only through direct contact with contaminated material, such as dirt and faeces.

Hookworms are common in puppies, though dogs of any age can be infested. Hookworms are acquired by nursing puppies from their mother and a contaminated, unclean environment. Adult dogs acquire hookworms by swallowing or coming into direct contact with the parasite’s eggs, contaminated material, or by having the hookworm burrow into the skin.

Infection can be prevented by regular veterinary-prescribed worming (NOT over the counter remedies such as Bob Martin, etc) and keeping a dog or puppy’s environment clean.  A vet can detect hookworms by examining a stool sample under a microscope.

Roundworms are also common in puppies and can infect other dogs and children. They look like white, firm, rounded strips of spaghetti, one to three inches long. Again, infestation can be prevented by keeping a dog’s environment clean.

Tapeworms cause a dog to lose weight and have occasional diarrhoea. They can be evident through segments of the worms around the anus or in stools. The segments look like grains of rice.

Tapeworms are acquired by ingesting the immediate host containing larvae; the eggs are frequently ingested through adult fleas. Immediate treatment is essential to avoid transmission to humans and permanent damage to the dog’s intestine.

Whipworms are acquired by licking or sniffing contaminated ground. They live in the dog’s intestine and are only detectable in a stool sample.

Dogs that are infected with a few Whipworms may not have any signs of infection. More severe infections can cause bloody diarrhoea. If an infected dog is not treated, severe Whipworm infection can cause serious disease and even death.

Again, a clean environment and regular veterinary check-ups will prevent Whipworm infestation.

External Parasites

Flea bites can make make some dogs, that are allergic to flea saliva, so distressed that they bite and scratch themselves raw. Other dogs may not react to flea bites with the same intensity. Flea infestations can be avoided by regular grooming and keeping a dog’s environment clean.

As fleas feed on blood, young, sick or elderly dogs can become weak and even die as a result of blood loss. Flea larvae can be infected with Tapeworm eggs (see above). Fleas can also pass on diseases to a dog; the young, ill and elderly being the most at risk.

Ticks can cause very serious illnesses, including [Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever] and [Lyme disease]. Dogs spending a lot of time outdoors should be checked daily (even in winter). Vulnerable young puppies with under-developed immune systems are particularly at risk and should be regularly checked.

If breeders claim their puppies are home bred, it’s reasonable to assume those puppies will be regularly handled and checked. If breeders claim puppies are vet-checked prior to sale, it’s also reasonable to assume that a tick attached to a puppy will be detected.

Ticks should be removed immediately [how to safely remove and dispose of ticks].

Ticks cannot jump, fly or ‘drop from trees’; they will climb a nearby piece of vegetation and wait for a passing animal or human to attach to, via their hooked front legs. This behaviour is known as ‘questing’. The tick will not necessarily bite immediately, but will often spend some time finding a suitable site on the skin, crawling up the host’s body (animal and human alike); their aim is to feed around the head, neck, and ears of their animal host, wherever the skin is thinner and where hosts have difficulty grooming.

Lice and Mites0

Lice and Mites are microscopic organisms that feed on a dog’s skin and cause itching, hair loss, and infection.

Lice live in a dog’s hair and can be killed by treatments which should only be prescribed by a qualified vet (over the counter chemical remedies will often do far more harm than good).

Various kinds of Mites inhabit different areas of a dog, and the problems they cause are generally known as Mange, a highly contagious and distressing skin disease. Also known as Scabies, Sarcoptic Mange affects humans as well as dogs, and is caused when mites burrow into the dog’s skin and cause intense itching and hair loss. Scabies usually affects the ears, elbows, legs, and face.

Demodectic mange causes hair loss around the forehead, eyes, muzzle, and forepaws. It’s caused by a mite that lives in hair follicles and causes hair loss, thick, red skin, and infected areas.

There is a mite that causes ‘walking dandruff’ on a dog’s head, back, and neck. This mite also causes itchy red spots on humans.

All mites should be diagnosed from a skin scraping performed by a qualified veterinarian.