There are various intestinal worms that can infect dogs and cats, with hook worms, round worms (ascarids), whip worms (mainly in dogs) and tapeworms being the main groups. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, bloody stools, weight loss, anaemia, pot belly, dry hair and/or general poor appearance. If left untreated, worm infestations can be fatal. Worms can be picked up from the mother (either in utero or via milk), from the environment (infected stools), from eating infected prey (lizard or mouse), or, in the case of tapeworms, from fleas. Worms can also be transmitted to humans.
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.
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.
As a dog owner you are fully and legally responsible for any harm or damages caused by your dog. If your dog bites a human, kills wildlife, damages property, causes a traffic accident, creates noise or other pollution, or is the direct cause of any other damage to the community, you may have to shoulder a substantial financial (if not legal) penalty. It is in your best interest then to always keep a vigilant eye on your dog in public and provide him with the obedience training and socialisation skills necessary to become a well-mannered and socially well-adjusted dog.
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.
The key method to adopt here is one of positive reinforcement. Firstly, you need to show your pup the area where it should do its business, and each time the pup toilets in the designated area, immediately reward with a treat or verbal praise. In order to prevent mistakes from happening, it is important to both diligently supervise your dog while it is indoors and take it frequently outdoors. This will speed the learning process and prevent any accidents from occurring in the house.
It’s important to maintain a healthy skin and coat, and dogs of any age can suffer from arthritis and joint issues. Calming aids can ease anxiety, whether situational or hereditary. It’s always good to have basic first aid and wound care items handy, and dental care products can make regular teeth maintenance easy. For long-term solutions, we even carry syringes and needles, pilling aids, and more to save you too many trips to the vet.
While fleas are annoying, ticks can be deadly. The paralysis tick occurs mainly in spring and summer in Eastern Australia, and is found in long grass and the bush. Tick protection isn't necessary for all dogs and cats, and depending on where you live, may not be needed all year round – your vet can advise you on the situation in your local area. No tick preventative is 100% effective, so you still need to check your pet every day.
Fleas are most common in warm humid areas, and while more prolific in summer, they are found year-round in many parts of Australia. Flea bites cause discomfort and distress through itching, and some dogs and cats can develop hypersensitivity or an allergy. Fleas also host tapeworms, infecting your pet if they eat them. Most dogs and cats need flea treatment – indoor cats may be an exception.
If dogs live indoors they need to be provided with a dog bed. Most dogs though are hardy enough to sleep outdoors in a well-built, well-furnished and weatherproof kennel. The kennel should be warm, dry and draught free, elevated from the ground, near the house and human activity but not in a thoroughfare. It should be protected from rain and excessive sun, and the bedding should be changed regularly. Washable rugs, cushions or blankets are suitable as bedding.
The RSPCA recommends that you do not purchase a dog from markets or places where large numbers of dogs are kept for sale. Dogs sold from these establishments are very rarely examined by a veterinarian, and therefore may not be entirely healthy. Never purchase a puppy that looks unwell and if you are concerned about the welfare of the animal, contact the RSPCA Inspectorate.