What do dog fleas look like? Could my dog have worms? Why are ticks so dangerous? These are just some of the questions we get asked by Worcestershire dog owners at our Hagley vet practice.
In this article, one of our Head Vets, Joao Teotonio, invites all dog owners to take a closer look at common dog parasites as we head into spring. Joao shares what you need to know about dog fleas, worms, and ticks below, and you can download our handy infographic highlighting the common signs to look out for here:
Get our Spotting Pesky Parasites guide
As well as making your dog feel itchy, sore, and uncomfortable, fleas pose a serious health risk. They lay flea eggs on dogs and in your home, multiplying rapidly. A flea infestation can lead to anaemia (due to the volume of blood they consume), which can be fatal especially in puppies or unwell dogs.
Joao advises owners that fleas do not spend all their time on pets. Fleas can also survive in cracks and crevices, on furniture, and in carpets for up to a year. If your dog gets fleas you will need to treat them, your home, and other pets - never share flea treatments between pet species.
How do dogs get fleas?
Fleas are common in the environment and can be easily picked up in the garden, on walks, and from other pets carrying them. The only way to avoid your dog getting fleas is to treat them (and cats if you have them) regularly throughout the year with vet-recommended preventative flea treatments. One-off treatments might remove existing fleas but won’t protect your pets going forward, neither will many over-the-counter products.
What do dog fleas look like?
Dog fleas are small, black/brown in colour, and swell after feasting on blood. You can sometimes spot them crawling or jumping on your dog, or you. To help you spot other tell-tale signs of fleas, get Joao’s dog parasite guide here
To give your dog ongoing protection throughout their life, they will need a vet-recommended worming treatment every 1-6 months, depending on your Vet’s guidance. Some worms can have devastating consequences for your dog, and some can be passed to humans, so Joao stresses the importance of preventative worm treatments.
- Roundworms: higher risk to younger dogs – can be passed to humans
- Tapeworms: exposure risk higher in dogs who scavenge for food and those with fleas – children at risk of contracting from infected faeces
- Hookworm & whipworm: like tapeworms, these are common intestinal worms that can cause health complications
- Lungworm: often fatal, picked up from the slime of infected slugs and snails – increased risk if dog toys and food/water bowls are left out overnight
- Heartworm: dogs travelling abroad can be at risk
To help you spot the tell-tale signs of dog worms, download our parasite guide here
Ticks mostly live in woodland, long grasses, and fields where livestock or deer graze. Although most prevalent in spring and summer, they can be problematic throughout the year in some areas.
Ticks are usually small, oval, and flat in appearance, about the size of a sesame seed. They can swell to the size of a coffee bean after a feast of blood. Joao advises dog owners to check for small lumps on their dog’s skin (and their own) after walks.
Why are ticks so dangerous?
Ticks latch on by inserting their mouthparts into the skin to suck blood. A tick bite can cause irritation, anaemia, and temporary paralysis in rare cases. Ticks can also spread Lyme disease, which affects humans too and can lead to a serious, debilitating chronic illness with complications for life.
How do you remove a tick safely?
It is important to use a special tick removal tool in a twist and pull motion instead of pulling a tick straight out, which could leave the head in and increase the risk of disease transmission. Ask our team about tick removal tools.
With pets being outside more in spring they are more at risk of picking up parasites. To help you spot the signs of tick bites in dogs as well as worms and fleas, check out Joao’s handy dog parasite guide:
Spotting Pesky Parasites - download now
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