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.
Dogs frequently suffer from infestations of intestinal parasites – commonly known as worms. The most common types are roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and whipworms. Each different type of worm has its own specific lifecycle and can damage a dog’s health in different ways. Clinical signs of an excessive worm burden include: diarrhoea, vomiting, poor coat condition, weight loss and general lethargy. Some types of worms can remain in a dogs system and no outward signs of infestation will be apparent. Intestinal worms can be treated with anthelmintics (de-worming medication). Regular use of appropriate anthelmintics every 3 months is recommended.
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.