If left untreated, many parasites can seriously damage your dog’s health and even lead to death. This is why it is so important to use preventative measures to stop these parasites affecting our dogs, rather than treating them once a parasite has taken hold and possibly done unseen damage to our pets’ health.
Types of parasites
There are many types of parasite which can be picked up by your pet, some live inside the body and some are carried outside the body. It is our responsibility as pet owners to prevent parasite infestations whenever possible, this duty of care falls under section 2(e) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
While we may be able to spot certain parasites which live outside of the body, such as fleas and ticks, the smaller parasites such as mange and mites may not be noticed until symptoms such as hair loss, itching or skin conditions occur. If left untreated these parasites are not only very uncomfortable for your pet but can cause skin conditions, infections, reduce the immune function, cause anaemia, cause general ill health and depending on the severity of the infestation, even cause death.
Parasites that live inside the body are impossible to spot so again, prevention is crucial. There are many types of internal parasite which live in the intestines, some of the more common ones include worms such as roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, threadworms, and hookworms. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, dehydration, hunger or poor coat condition. Many dogs may remain asymptomatic and show no sign of illness until circumstances or stressful situations activate symptoms and illness.
Heartworms, unlike other worms, cannot be caught from other dogs, it can only be transmitted if bitten by an infected mosquito. The worms take months to reach their adult form and can live for years. Depending on the severity of the infestation, symptoms can include coughing, lack of energy, breathing difficulty, heart failure and in severe cases most dogs will not survive.
Lungworms can be caught from eating slugs or snails. Despite their name, they can travel through the whole body and can cause breathing difficulties, coughing, seizures, bleeding, and if severe, heart failure or death.
Other internal parasites include Coccidia and Giardia. These are both single cell protozoa parasites which feed on the intestines of the animal and then produce eggs or cysts which are released in the faeces. When ingested by another animal this can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, upset stomach and dehydration.
With so many different parasites which can be picked up in so many different ways, it is clear that the only way to ensure your pets are fully protected is to put in place a firm parasite prevention plan with your vet. It is a good idea to discuss your personal circumstances/lifestyle with your vet, the area you live in or your dog’s routine will impact which parasites are most likely to be picked up by your dog. Your vet will be able to advise on which preventions are necessary and tailor a year-round protection plan to suit your dog’s needs.
A monthly treatment plan can be a little costly, especially if you have more than one dog, but the price of preventative treatment is far smaller than the treatment which may be needed if your dogs fall ill.
If you choose to use natural preventions, it is wise to send regular faecal samples away to test for parasites. Some prevention remedies include:
· Apple cider vinegar
· Neem oil in shampoo or as spot on treatment
· Ground raw pumpkin seeds
· Garlic (in small doses)
· Meat with the fur still attached
· Grated vegetable skins which have a rough exterior
· Eucalyptus, rosemary, fennel and yellow dock dried to make a flea powder
· Dog safe essential oils to repel fleas
Not only do parasites have a detrimental effect on your dog’s health but these parasites can be very easily passed to any other pets you may have, other animals outside the home and even, in some cases, can be zoonotic. Many parasites can survive in the environment for months, sometimes even years so can be picked up from anywhere, they can even be picked up again by your own dog after treatment.
3. BCCS (2019) ‘Unit Two of the Accredited Canine Health and Nutrition Course’