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.
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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.
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The expression 'man's best friend' is truly fitting in describing one of man's most loyal and loving four-legged companions. Owning a dog is part of the Australian way of life - providing companionship, loyalty, and bundles of love for people of all ages, dogs are an invaluable addition to the family. Nonetheless, it is important to think carefully about the responsibility of dog ownership before you adopt or purchase a dog.
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.
Vomiting is not a disease or disorder in itself; it is a clinical sign of some type of digestive disturbance or as a result of another disease or disorder. Occasional bouts of vomiting can be considered normal but if the vomiting persists and is accompanied by severe or bloody diarrhoea, lethargy, weakness, depression, pain or fever then this is a sign that something is seriously wrong and veterinary attention is required. Vomiting can be caused by something the dog has eaten (e.g. rotten food), ingestion of toxins, adverse reactions to drugs or an allergic reaction to something in the environment.
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.
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.