There are all kinds of weird and wonderful parasites that can live in or on your dog, but which are the most common, can they affect humans and what should we do to prevent them? Rest assured that here at Orchard we provide comprehensive advice and complete coverage for your pet.
Which are the most common? Do they affect humans?
Some of the less usual parasites only bother dogs in times of disease or stress. The important ones to be aware of that cause common problems are:
- Fleas: cats and dogs have different species of fleas, but they will live on both. Fleas do not live on humans but they will bite us, which may be noticeable as small itchy red bumps, often around the ankles. Adult fleas on your pet will lay eggs that drop off and develop in the environment through larvae and into pupae from which new adult fleas emerge. In cozy, centrally heated houses this can occur all year round. The life cycle is temperature dependent but at its quickest is still 3 weeks (and can be months!), so regular control is important or you may unexpectedly find an infestation which can take months to clear. In some cases animals can have allergic reactions to flea bites leading to very itchy skin even without seeing adult fleas, and severe infestations in small puppies can even cause anaemia.
- Ticks: ticks used to be less common in the UK, but with rising temperatures they are now commonplace, especially in the South West. Ticks can carry Lymes disease, which can affect both dogs and humans, and in the worst cases may even be fatal. In some areas of the UK the tick borne disease babesiosis has recently become established, though luckily not currently in the South West.
- Lungworm: we see cases of lungworm in the South West disproportionately more than some other areas of the UK, so this is something we take very seriously at Orchard. Dogs get it from eating infected snails and slugs, or occasionally even from their slime trails, for example on toys that are left in the garden, or outdoor water bowls. Larvae grow in the body and move through the heart and lungs and this can progress to be a fatal disease. This does not affect humans.
- Roundworms (gut worms) The most important roundworm in dogs is called Toxocara canis. The highest risk period for this is in young puppies, as the parasite can be passed on from the mother even before the puppies are born. It is very important that puppies are wormed every four weeks until they are at least 6 months old. Infections with Toxocara in older dogs are often asymptomatic so the dog is not usually ill. However, they can still pass eggs in their faeces. If the parasite finds its way into a human and tries to establish an infection, it can cause serious problems such as blindness or seizures. Young children are at highest risk of this, due to their tendency to put their grubby fingers in their mouths. Keeping your dog regularly wormed and always picking up their poo on a walk is very important for public health!
- Tapeworms: Tapeworms have a more complex life cycle than roundworms, as they have to pass through another organism, known as an “intermediate host”. The intermediate host for the most common dog tapeworm is the flea: dogs are infected when they ingest fleas while grooming. In rare cases humans can be infected if they accidently swallow a flea! Other types of tapeworm pass through mammals that dogs then eat – regular tapeworm treatment is particularly important for dogs fed a raw meat diet, as tapeworms are normally killed by cooking, or freezing meat for a long time.
How do we prevent them?
Regular parasite control to prevent these diseases is, thankfully, easy! There are multiple veterinary products that we can choose to suit your pet’s routine. No product on the market covers everything in one, so there are a couple of protocols and product styles we recommend:
- Spot-ons: these are liquids applied directly on to the skin on the back of the neck, usually monthly. These are generally combined with a tick-repelling collar and tapewormer tablet.
- Tablets: these negate the requirement for a tick collar and are given monthly. These are combined with a tapewormer tablet.
We recommend using veterinary prescription medicines rather than products bought over the counter in pet shops. This is because prescription medicines have undergone thorough and strict medical trials and testing. Therefore, we know that these products work effectively and are safe to use. Sometimes your dog may need special considerations, for example during pregnancy or lactation, and this is something you can discuss with your vet to help choose a safe product.
Being regular with preventatives is important: lapses in treatment, even for as little as a week, can put your dog at risk of lungworm, ticks and fleas in particular.
Orchard Health Plan Benefits
Our Health Plan members have all the essential parasite coverage included in their annual plan, and we will even remind you when your next few months of product are ready to collect! You can choose if you would prefer a spot-on or tablet plan. To have a look at our Health Plan and it’s other benefits, please visit the web page here