External and Internal Parasites
A parasite is something that lives on another animal (the host) and gets its nourishment from the host. If left unchecked, the parasite causes disease or even death. The most common external parasites found on dogs are fleas and ticks.
Worming your dog throughout its lifetime is important, and you should talk to your vet about a suitable worming programme for your puppy at the earliest opportunity. Regular worming not only protects your dog’s health, but helps to prevent the spread of infection and potentially hazardous health risks to other animals and humans too. Worm infections carried by your dog do not always display obvious symptoms, so an adequate treatment schedule is vital.
Signs aren’t always obvious
Dogs can appear healthy even when they have worm infections. Detecting an infection can be tricky, particularly as worm eggs are too small to be easily visible in your pet’s faeces. In addition, your dog may be more at risk from some worm infections than others depending on where you live. It is therefore extremely important to keep your dog’s treatment regular and up-to-date.
Specific signs will be described for each worm, but remember that not all worm infections will be obvious in your dog, so some more general signs to look for include:
- The presence of visible worm segments that could stick to your dog’s bottom and become itchy. This can cause dogs to “scoot”, whereby they drag their bottoms along the ground with their back legs. Doing this also means that your dog will be rubbing its infected bottom on your floor or carpet, which is naturally unhygienic
- Weight loss
- A dull, lifeless coat
- A change in appetite (it may be either increased or decreased depending on the worms present)
- A lack of energy
- A pot-bellied appearance (most commonly seen in puppies)
- Breathing difficulties and coughing
- General changes in behaviour
You should seek advice from your vet if you see any of the above signs in your dog. Many of these symptoms may be indicative of other illnesses. Your vet will be able to investigate the problem and provide appropriate advice and treatment.