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Parasite Protection: Know Your Stuff

Dog in field

Often, a lot of damage can be done by virtually invisible threats. For our pets, this often means parasites (gross), mites (ick) and ticks (ugh).

Our pets can be affected by a number of different parasites, some of which are zoonotic (they can affect us too). This means that it’s even more important for us to prevent our pets suffering from a parasite infestation. Here’s a rundown of the main parasites we look to prevent against:


Roundworm –

  • Contracted by swallowing eggs from the environment, including sometimes from an infected prey animal
  • Symptoms can include pot belly and diarrhoea
  • Can cause blindness in extreme cases as larvae can migrate (this can happen to humans as well)

Tapeworm –

  • Often passed on by an intermediate host such as fleas or prey
  • Eggs are passed in the faeces of infected animals and look like little grains of rice
  • Pets may show no symptoms but frequently exhibit ‘scooting’ across the floor due to irritation

Lungworm –

  • Normally affects dog who contract it by eating infected slugs and snails
  • Can be fatal if left untreated
  • The worm is never seen as it remains in the dog, and the larvae are microscopic so are also not visible even when excreted in faeces
  • Causes coughing and breathing problems, although symptoms may not be obvious until condition is advanced

Hookworm –

  • Mainly affects dogs
  • Contracted via contact with faeces of an infected dog
  • Can cause anaemia, lethargy and diarrhoea

Whipworm –

  • Only affects dogs
  • Infection is spread by eating eggs that have been passed in the faeces of infected dogs
  • Can cause anaemia and restrict growth in young dogs

Some parasites, like heartworm, are common in foreign countries but not the UK. If your pet travels abroad with you then you’ll need to be aware of which extra threats they need protecting against.


You might already be aware of these if you walk your pet through fields or live in the countryside. The warmer months make them more of a risk as the grass is longer, so your pets are more likely to pick them up as they brush past grass.

It’s important that you understand the correct method for removing a tick, as removing it incorrectly could leave the head still stuck in your pet. Please ask your local vet practice for advice on the correct procedure for tick removal – or ask for a demonstration.


Mange is a very unpleasant and extremely contagious skin condition caused by an infestation of mites. There are two variations, Sarcoptes (can be passed from dog to dog) and Demodex (can only be passed from a bitch to her puppies). In people, a mange infestation is known as scabies.

Pets can also suffer from ear mites. These are more common in cats and can often look like your pet just has dirty ears! Make sure you keep their ears clean so you can identify if they contract an ear mite infestation.

Have we missed one? One of the key parasites that affects your pets is, of course, fleas. These pesky little blighters cause misery for thousands of pets because they’re so easy to get and so difficult to get rid of. We will be discussing more about fleas on our next blog post!

Parasite prevention:

Luckily, there’s an easy way to help keep your pet free from these parasites. Monthly preventative healthcare can protect your pets against the threat of infestation.

Each pet has their own needs based on their lifestyle so speak to your vet about what your pet needs and when. All the options should be easy to administer at home.

A parasite infestation can make your pet very ill and miserable, and, in some extreme cases, can even be fatal. They are often difficult to detect, so prevention is important.

If you’d like advice or to book an appointment regarding parasite prevention for your pet, use our online practice finder to locate your nearest practice.

Where you live and your local environment directly affects the parasites that your pet is exposed to. The risks could be lurking in the park or in your garden. Make sure you know about the jungle on your doorstep.

Posted May 29, 2015 in Preventative Healthcare

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