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New Perspective on Pet Parasites

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Last week we discussed how the flea life cycle can mean that it’s difficult to quickly solve a flea problem. This week we’ll be continuing to make you feel all itchy by looking at other parasites which can affect your pet!

Because many parasites are zoonotic – they can pass between animals and humans – it’s even more important to make sure that your pet is not affected.

Bengal -cat

Different parasites:

Internal worms:

There are a number of individual worms, and here we’ll discuss the most common.

Tapeworms – Pets often pick up tapeworm infestations from an intermediate host, normally a flea. You can sometimes actually see the tapeworm eggs as they are expelled in the animal’s poo (they look like little white rice grains). You may often not see a single symptom of infestation, although your pet may suffer from vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.

Lungworm – This life-threatening parasite can infect dogs when they swallow infected slugs or snails. The actual worm lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries, meaning you’ll never see it outside your pet. Because of this it’s important to look out for possible symptoms. These include coughing, vomiting, excessive bleeding from small wounds and seizures. If a dog is treated early enough they can make a full recovery, but if not treated they can die.

Whipworm – These parasites only affect dogs and live in the large intestine where they burrow into the lining and feed on your dog. Your pet can become infected with this worm by eating eggs that have been passed in the poo of already infected dogs. This means that, if your dog is one of those with the unpleasant habit of wolfing down poo in the park, they’re at risk.

Hookworm – These live in the small, rather than large, intestine and can cause infections. Dogs can become infected by ingesting parasite larvae in the environment, as well as by eating an infected host (such as a rabbit or other small mammal).

Roundworm – These worms feed on the contents of your pet’s gut, with symptoms often including a pot belly, diarrhoea and poor growth in puppies. These puppies are often born with Heartworm and contract it via their mother’s milk. Pets that hunt are also at particular risk of being infected.

Some worms may only pose a risk to your pet if they travel abroad, so make sure you are aware of any additional threats if your pet does enjoy foreign travel. These include Heartworm, which is passed on by mosquitoes.

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You may know certain forms of mite infestation by the name mange (or Scabies, in humans). This unpleasant condition is caused by the Sarcoptic mange mite in dogs and the Notoedric mange mite in cats. Both are highly contagious parasites which can spend their whole life on their animal host.

You may have seen wildlife which has been affected by mange – the signs include scaling, wrinkled skin and hair loss. Due to the persistent itchiness and irritation, animals will sometimes scratch themselves to the point of open wounds (meaning the added concern of infections).

Certain mite infestations may happen before you even own your pet – Demodex, for example,  is passed from the mother to her pups. These puppies will then carry the mite on their skin for their whole lives, although some may never actually develop a skin problem. However, certain dogs can suffer severely with this mite infestation severely.

Ear mites are a common problem in pets as they are highly contagious. Your pet may carry them without showing signs of being affected, but other animals may suffer ‘flare ups’.


Pets often pick up ticks when walking through long vegetation. They look like little grey lentils and you can remove them yourself if you have a tick remover. It’s very important that you don’t break off just the body of the tick and leave the head still attached to your pet – you have to twist, not just pull. Ticks carry the added risk of transmitting diseases such as Lyme disease.

Parasite prevention…

As you can see, the list of parasites is diverse.

Some products will cover for certain parasites but not others, whilst it may be difficult to protect against others. Because the frequency and level of parasite control your pet needs depends on their lifestyle, we advise coming in to see us so we can develop an individual parasite control plan for your pet.

I’m confused about what my pet might have…

Nothing beats actually having a vet physically examine your pet. If you have concerns about a possible parasite infestation (or anything else!) then please book an appointment by using our online practice finder.


If you’d like to learn more about parasites, please visit

Posted June 13, 2014 in Preventative Healthcare

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