What are these parasites? Worms, ticks and fleas

11 Apr

Whether you are a new dog owner, or have had many dogs in the past, it is important that you know all about the many parasites your little friend could pick up, why it is important to prevent them and most importantly, how to prevent them.


All dogs are likely to end up with worms at some point in their lives; puppies are most at risk, often being born with them. Whilst they are easy to pick up, it is important that they are treated as worm infestations can cause quite serious illnesses, and even put you (the human) at risk. The most common type of worm you might find in your pet is either the tapeworm or the roundworm. However you also need to be aware of: hookworm, whipworm and heartworm. Depending on where you live, different types of worm might be more common than others.

roundworm            tapeworm


The Signs:

Your dog may not show any symptoms of having worms, however, if they are suffering from a large infestation you are likely to see:

  • ‘scooting’ – some worms shed segments that could stick to your pet’s bottom and become itchy, so they may drag their bottom along the ground with their back legs. Doing this also means that your pet will be rubbing their infected bottom on your carpet which is unhygienic
  • weight loss
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • a dull, lifeless coat
  • change in appetite (may be increased or decreased depending on the worms present)
  • lack of energy
  • a pot bellied appearance (most commonly seen in puppies and kittens)
  • breathing difficulties
  • any general changes in behaviour


worm pup



How could my dog get worms:

You might be surprised to find out that your dog really could pick up worms from just about anywhere, unless you wrap him up in a little bubble, but that just wouldn’t work.

  • Animal faeces
  • Scavenging/hunting
  • Fleas
  • Contaminated Soil



There is a variety of different treatments available both in pet stores and from your local vet. These can vary regarding how much and how frequently your pet needs to take the treatment, how effective they are and also how much they cost. Often these treatments will be in tablet form, however there are a number of spot on flea treatments that can also be used to treat certain worms.



wormer 4

wormer 2


My personal recommendation is seeking advice from your vet as many of the products available on the market are either cheap but not that great or you might find that the pests start to become immune to them i.e. It has recently been suggested that Frontline might not be the best any more where it once was recommended widely (don’t quote me on that, i was told a couple of years ago by my vet).



Fleas and Ticks:

Dogs (and most animals with fur) can pick up fleas very easily. If you remember back from when you were a child and an infestation of “nits” went around the school, you will remember how annoying and uncomfortable they are and therefore understand the need for treatment. Fleas used to most commonly be a problem during the summer months, but due to central heating they can now be an issue throughout the year and so more regular treatment is provided. You might be surprised to know that most of the fleas you find on your dog, are actually cat fleas!

 flea tick

The signs:

Fleas are easily visible to the human eye, and so if you groom or even just get up close to your dog on a regular basis (you should be!) then you will be able to see if your dog has fleas or not. Obviously they are more noticeable on animals with a fine or lighter coat. On darker dogs you might notice that they are more visible as they run across their belly as the hair here is more sparse. A dog that remains untreated for fleas can end up suffering from anemia as the fleas literally suck them dry.

Another way to check for fleas is to look for flea droppings by brushing your pets coat the wrong way and allowing debris to fall on to a moist tissue or blotting paper. The dried specks of flea droppings will create red circles on the damp paper.

The most obvious sign you might see in your dog itself is the urge to itch and scratch (remember that time when you had nits?).

dog flea

Ticks are much larger than fleas and they latch on and suck the blood from your fury friend, increasing in size. You must be very careful when it comes to removing a ticks as you may leave parts behind which could result in infection. There are now little tools available on the market to remove ticks, however i have never used one so cannot comment on their effectiveness. The old fashioned method is dabbing it with a bit of gin (or another strong spirit) which eventually kills it and it just drops right off. Where fleas are mostly just a source of annoyance to the dog, ticks can carry and pass on a number of nasty diseases including Lyme disease.

dog tick

Where could my dog get them?

Fleas actually spend most of their life cycle in the home environment. It is therefore important that you not only treat your animals for fleas, but also ensure that your home is flea free. Fleas are often picked up through contact with another animal that is carrying them.

Ticks are often picked up by your dog in long grass or woodlands. They hide out in the grass and wait for a host. Attracted to warmth, they wait until a warm body comes into close proximity, climb aboard and attach themselves.


If you feel daunted by the number of different worming treatments out there, wait until you see the variety of flea treatments.

  • Flea collar
  • Sprays
  • Tablets
  • Spot on

flea 1 flea 2 flea 3 flea 4 flea 5


I suggest that you may want to try a combination of flea treatments. For example, if your home is infested then you need to treat your home (including the dogs bedding) with a spray but also your dog. Spot on treatments work great and you can see the effects quickly. Again they range in prices and you may want to see your vet for advice as finding the right product may be daunting.

Useful links:

http://wormpatrol.co.uk   – This provides some useful basic information about the pests your dog might face. They also provide a very useful service which you can sign up to (i just have) where they can send you a reminder of when your pet is due to be wormed and flead via email, text or both.

http://www.paws247.com/flea/ – Some examples of flea treatment you might consider

http://www.petsathome.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Info_10601_dog-flea-and-worm_-1_10551 – Some general information, includes the life cycle of the flea

http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/az/h/healthproblems/vaccinationsandfleas.aspx#.UWcBjbWkpOw – Lots of information about worms, fleas and ticks

http://dogs.about.com/od/dogandpuppyhealth/a/ticksondogs.htm – Ticks

http://www.advocatefordogs.co.uk/ – This is the treatment i use on my dogs, its fairly expensive but very good and vet recommended. As said before, there are many options out there so its just a case of looking around, reading up, seeking advice and maybe trying out some different products until you find the right one for you and your dog(s).


2 Responses to “What are these parasites? Worms, ticks and fleas”

  1. Wendy Quinn April 12, 2013 at 5:09 am #

    Essential advice…..
    There may also be other worms endemic to your area that require a vet’s vaccination…. worth checking.

    • taylorr1991 April 12, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. I figured it was time for me to post something useful.

      That is a very good point to make, one which i should probably have mentioned, so thank you very much for pointing that out 🙂


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