Protecting Your Dog From Parasites

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It does not matter how clean and safe the puppy’s or dog’s cage is, there is still a risk of your pet facing a range of illnesses and diseases. While some are annoying to your pet, such as being infested with fleas or worms, others can result in expensive vet bills and risk your dog’s life. It is essential that as a dog owner that you are aware of some of the most common illnesses and diseases and know what you can do to protect your dog from illness through dental care, worming, vaccinations, grooming and other care that starts the moment that you bring your puppy or dog home.

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Parasites Affecting Your Dog

There are two main groups of parasites that affect your pet dog. There are parasites that live outside your pet on its skin or fur and those that live internally.

If you have just brought home a puppy, then you are likely to have noticed that the breeder or vet has begun a series of treatments to deal with worms. Many puppies and dogs will be affected by worms at some point in their lives. At certain life stages, worms can be detrimental to your dog’s health, especially young puppies and elderly and sick pets. Worms can cause weight loss, diarrhoea, swollen tummy, vomiting, and in extreme situations even death.

The four main types of worm infestations live in your pet’s intestines and feed off the food your dog is digesting.

Many puppies are born with roundworms. These are usually long and look like rubber bands. They are spread from dog to dog through faecal matter and pass through the digestion system and reside in the small intestine, but can move to other parts of the body through blood vessels and respiratory system.

Tapeworms are also very common. Named due to their ribbon of segments or tape-like appearance, each worm buries its head into the lining of the small intestine. They are spread from dog to dog by fleas. Some dogs will display behaviour of dragging their behind along the ground as If to deal with an itch, which could be a sign of tapeworms. Tapeworms can be spotted in faeces or protruding from your pet’s anus.

With six sharp hook-like teeth, hookworms feed on your pet’s blood and are also spread through poor hygiene of faeces. Hookworms can cause anaemia. The worms can pass from bitches to their puppies, through direct digestion of the larvae from the ground or from meat.

Thread or whip worms are about 5 to 7 centimetres long and live in the small intestine and colon. The eggs must be ingested directly by a dog to become infected.

Other worms that can infest your dog include kidney worms, heart worms and lung worms. Heart worms are spread by mosquitoes and affects the pulmonary system. Two different types of lung worms can be spread from the bitch to puppies through her saliva or by eating earthworms respectively.

Dealing With Worms in Your Dog

Worming should be carried out about three times per year for each year of its life. A puppy should begin a treatment at about three weeks old because worms can be passed from the bitch before birth or through her milk. Worming treatments come in various forms from your vet and give information on the appropriate dosage to provide by syringe, tablets or granules to give orally.

External Parasites Affecting Your Dog

The usual external parasites affecting your dog or puppy will be ticks, lice, mites and fleas. Most of these parasites are common where your pet interacts with other animals or ventures into areas where other dogs exercise.

Dog Fleas

A flea lives on the dog’s coat and lays eggs that fall off onto the carpet or ground. Once hatched, the larva feed on various debris before pupating and developing into an adult flea. Attracted to warmth and vibration, the flea then will jump onto the same or another dog and the cycle will continue. Each cycle can be completed within 14 days. An adult flea lives for about a week to ten days and bite the dog’s skin, which can cause much discomfort to your pet. If you see your dog gnawing at the base of his or her tail or scratching at their ears, abdomen or neck, then you might suspect an infestation. Fleas can cause anaemia. They are easy to treat with chemical powder, shampoos and sprays.

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Blood Sucking Ticks on a Dog

Ticks often come from other animals such as sheep and hedgehogs and will alight on a dog to suck its blood. A dog will come into contact with ticks during the summer when exercising in long grass or undergrowth near where other animals use.

A female tick can lay many eggs on the soil and hatch into larvae, which attach to host animals to feed and then fall off to develop into a nymph, which later finds a host until it matures into a tick. Usually falling off and finding a final host, it digs its mouth into the skin and sucks on a dog’s blood spreading disease and infection. Once gorged with blood, the tick falls off and starts the life cycle again. The whole process can take up to three years to complete.  You can often treat your dog for ticks in advance by speaking to your vet.

Mites and Your Dog

Mites are much smaller than ticks or fleas and often burrow under the skin causing rashes and other discomfort. They may be noticed during grooming or under examination by the vet. There are three main types of mite that you may encounter: demodex, otodectes and sarcoptes. Mange is caused by demodex mites, scabies is caused by sarcoptes, and inflammation of the ear can be caused by otodectes.

The Importance of Grooming Your Dog

It cannot be underestimated how important it is to groom your dog so that you can help it to maintain its natural defence. By massaging the coat, you will loosen any dirt and debris, loose hairs and encourage the skin to produce sebum to keep the oil and skin in good condition.

You will find different brushes available for help with maintaining different types of coat. Depending on your breed, you may need to arrange grooming sessions to regularly trim and manage your dog’s coat. All parts of your dog’s body should be groomed to prevent matting. Severe matted fur may need to be cut out or teased gently as not to harm your pet.

Most dogs like water, but you should not over bathe your pet as you can upset the balance of natural oils on your dog’s fur.

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