Diarrhoea is similar to vomiting in that it is a clinical sign rather than a disease itself. Diarrhoea can be a sign of a mild digestive upset or of something more serious e.g. food poisoning or ingestion of other toxic materials. Acute and chronic diarrhoea can be life threatening, particularly in puppies or older dogs. If the diarrhoea lasts longer than a couple of hours, contains blood and the dog appears to be in pain and has a fever then veterinary attention is required immediately. Treatment in this case will include identification and appropriate treatment for the underlying condition causing the diarrhoea as well as fluid and electrolyte therapy. Mild cases can be treated at home by removing food for a period of 12 hours and then re-introducing small amounts of bland food (e.g. chicken and rice). Probiotics can also be a useful addition to improve the overall health of the affected dog’s intestines.
Lungworm larvae may be present in slugs and snails, and if eaten, pets may be infected with worms that make their way to the lungs, where they block airways and make breathing difficult. Most dog wormers don't claim to treat lungworm, although some cat wormers do. Research conducted internationally has found moxidectin, which is found in some heartworm treatments for dogs, to be effective against lungworm, but this claim can't be made for dogs on packaging in Australia. Check with your vet as to whether it's an issue in your area, and discuss the best preventative treatment.
Fleas are a common external parasite associated with dogs. They cause severe itching and inflammation of the skin, leading to dermatitis. They are the intermediate host for the Tapeworm most common in dogs. If fleas are a problem, it is necessary to treat all animals in the household (both cats and dogs) to clean the environment. You may also want to ‘flea bomb’ the house to remove any eggs and to stop the cycle. Preventative programs are best achieved using “spot on” products that have a prolonged residual effect, usually 30 days. However it is strongly advised to consult your Vet or chat with the RSPCA's friendly Vet nurse team for free advice about the most suitable product for your pet.
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Giardia intestinalis and Giardia duodenalis are single celled protozoan parasites, which inhabit the affected dog’s small intestine, causing clinical signs of Gardiasis. The protozoa attach themselves to the intestines and multiply. They may be directly swept through the intestines and appear in the infected dog’s faeces or they may develop into a tougher more durable ‘cyst’ form, which is again passed in the dogs faeces but is able to survive for long periods in the external environment. Dogs are infected by ingesting the cysts from contaminated water and the environment. Infected dogs may not show any clinical signs of Gardiasis, but they can still shed the protozoa from their systems, spreading the infection to other healthy animals. Infection and subsequent illness is more commonly seen in younger animals. Signs of infection include: chronic or intermittent diarrhoea that may appear ‘fatty’ and slimy, accompanied by a very foul smell. Weight loss is also possible if left untreated.
Combing and brushing dogs regularly is essential, particularly for longhaired breeds. It is best to establish this habit early in a dog’s life so that grooming becomes part of the routine. Grooming removes dust, dead skin, loose hairs, grass seeds, and tangles. It also assists to shorten the coat moult, which occurs every autumn and spring. Brushing helps keep your dog cool in summer months and reduces the amount of hair your dog sheds. Dogs with short coats also require some brushing.