Common  Parasites 

The risks parasites pose to your pets

Fleas

Fleas are an extremely common problem especially in the warmer seasons. However, fleas can also thrive in the autumn and winter seasons in heated homes which is why it is important to use preventative treatment all year round. 

Did you know 95% of fleas live in the environment? So, if 50 fleas are living on your dog expect to find another 950 living in your carpets, bedding, cars and airing cupboards etc. Therefore we always recommend treating your home if your beloved pet has a flea infestation. 

Fleas carry worms so it is likely if your animal has fleas it will also have a worm infestation.

Over 2000 species exist, the most common we see are the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) and the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). These fleas are difficult to spot, they are extremely fast and can jump up to 33cm. Flea dirt (as shown in the picture to the right) is one of the common signs of a flea infestation. Female fleas can lay up to 200 eggs per day and a single flea can bite your dog hundreds of times per day.

Fleas can cause further complications such as Flea Allergic Dermatitis and anamia in severe cases. They also carry other harmful viruses and diseases. It is also important to be aware that fleas are not fussy what species they feed from- they also bite us humans too!

So how do you get rid of fleas?

Well, we would always recommend preventing them so you more than likely will never need to 'get rid' of an infestation. We can tailor a preventative health care plan to meet the needs of your pet.

However if you do have the pesky critters set up camp on your animal and in your home, we can also provide treatment to help eliminate them. Just pop in to see us or call for more info.


How to apply spot on treatment

Worms

Roundworm

Roundworm (Toxocara spp) are found in the gut. Roundworms look like pieces of string and occassionally may be seen in faeces or can be vomited up.

Worm eggs are passed in the faeces of infected dogs and they remain in the soil. Children can pick up infections from contaminated soil by putting their hands in their mouth after playing. Although serious consequences of a Toxocara infection are quite rare, these worms can cause blindness, heart problems and epilepsy in humans especially small children.

Puppies and kittens can also be infected with worms whilst they are in the uterus and through the mothers milk.

We recommend using preventative treatment to avoid a roundworm infection.

Tapeworm

Tapeworm are found in the gut and are long and flat with segments which look like grains of rice and can sometimes be seen in the faeces. 

Cats and dogs contract tapeworm by ingesting an infected intermediate host such as a flea.

If your pet has a tapeworm infection, you may not realise as cats and dogs infected with adult forms of the tapeworm often show no symptoms.
In extreme cases, and if humans inadvertently ingest some types of tapeworm eggs, cysts can develop within body tissues.

Hookworm

Adult hookworms live in the gut and are between 5 and 16mm in length. They are characterised by having cutting plates and teeth in their mouths

In the UK they mainly affect dogs, with cat infections being very rare

Hookworm eggs are passed in dog and even foxes’ poo, and are left in the environment. Animals are infected by ingesting larvae from the environment.

Hookworms latch onto the intestinal wall and feed on blood, they live in the small intestine

Heartworm

Heartworm is not found in the UK and Ireland, however they are a threat to travelling pets in Europe and elsewhere in the world, spread about by infected mosquitoes.

Heartworms live in the pulmonary arteries and right-side of the heart of infected dogs and cats

Adults are white, slender, filamentous (or thread-like) with a tapered head. They vary from approx. 12 to 30 cm in length but are never seen as they remain inside the infected animal. The larval stage (known as microfilariae) circulate in the bloodstream and are microscopic


Whipworm

Whipworms have a thick head end and a characteristic whip-like tail

The adults live in the large intestine and in the UK they only affect dogs

Whipworms embed their head end into the intestine, they damage the lining and feed on blood and tissue fluid

Dogs become infected by eating eggs in the environment, that have been passed in the poo of infected dogs

High burdens can cause symptoms such as diarrhoea
Infections may also cause anaemia and reduced growth

Lungworm

For more information about lungworm

Click here

Ticks

What do they look like and where do they live?

Ticks have eight legs rather than six, and their bodies are composed of only two sections
Ixodes ricinus is the most common tick in the UK and Ireland. They are generally found in rural areas

How can my pet contract ticks?

Ticks lie in wait in vegetation and attach to dogs or cats as they brush past

How will this parasite affect my pet?

Ticks have highly developed mouthparts, which allow them to pierce a hole through the skin and feed on blood
They can cause reactions at the site of attachment
Ticks may cause anaemia if there is a severe infestation in a young animal
The most important risk associated with ticks is the diseases they can transmit, e.g. Lyme Disease in the UK and Ireland
Diseases such as Babesiosis and Ehrlichioisis can be transmitted to pets travelling abroad, therefore regular tick treatment for travelling pets is important

Can this parasite affect my health?

Ticks can also attach themselves to humans
Ticks can transmit tick-borne diseases to humans

Ear mites

What do they look like and where do they live?

Ear mites are eight-legged parasites which can infect cats and dogs. They do not burrow into skin, but live on the surface of the skin in the outer ear canal

How can my pet contract Ear Mites?

The mites are highly contagious and can pass easily from one infected pet to another with direct contact
Constant re-infestation can be a problem

How will this parasite affect my pet?

Cats may carry ear mites without showing signs, but signs can flare up. Young animals are most susceptible to infestation but all ages can be affected

Can this parasite affect my health?

It is an extremely rare occurrence for this parasite to affect humans

Biting Lice

What do they look like and where do they live?

Lice are small wingless insects that spend their entire life cycle on the host. They are highly host specific, meaning that a dog louse will not infect a cat, and vice versa

How can my pet contract Biting Lice?

Transmission of lice occurs via direct animal contact

How will this parasite affect my pet?

Signs usually relate to the damage caused to the skin when the louse feeds. Very young, old or debilitated animals are most at risk from this parasite.Heavy infestations can result in intense itching. Damage to the skin from scratching can result in inflammation, hair loss and bacterial infections

Can this parasite affect my health?

Lice are highly species specific; the dog louse will therefore not affect humans.

Sarcoptic Mange Mite

What do they look like and where do they live?

Sarcoptic mange mites are eight-legged parasites, they spend their whole life on the host. Infection with these mites is known as mange, or in people it is called scabies

How can my pet contract Sarcoptes?

The sarcoptic mange mite is contracted via direct contact with an infected animal. Sarcoptic mange mites are extremely contagious

How will this parasite affect my pet?

They can cause severe irritation, itching, redness, and skin disease. They often affect areas such as the ear margin, abdomen, groin, elbows and hocks and the infection can spread from these areas over the whole body. First visible signs may be scaling and wrinkling of the skin. They can cause severe itching, scratching, hair loss and skin disease
They can lead to bacterial infections

Can this parasite affect my health?

Mites can transfer from dogs to humans if there is close contact. They can burrow in human skin

Notoedres Mange Mite

What do they look like and where do they live?

Notoedric mange mites are eight-legged parasites, they spend their whole life on the host
Infection with these mites is known as mange, or in people it is called scabies

How can my pet contract Notoedres?

The notoedric mange mite is contracted via direct contact with an infected cat. Notoedric mange mites are extremely contagious

How will this parasite affect my pet?

They can cause severe irritation, itching, redness, and skin disease. They often affect areas such as the head, ears and neck, infection can spread from these areas over the whole body. First visible signs may be scaling and wrinkling of the skin. They can cause severe itching, scratching, hair loss and skin disease. They can lead to bacterial infections

Can this parasite affect my health?

Mites can transfer from cats to humans if there is close contact. They can burrow in human skin

Demodex

What do they look like and where do they live?

The mite Demodex canis, which affects dogs, lives on the skin. Cats can be infected by Demodex mites called Demodex cati, but skin disease caused by these mites is rare in cats. The adult mite, Demodex canis is a slender mite with eight short stubby legs and a long body, often described as “cigar shaped”

How can my pet contract Demodex?

There is only one instance in which Demodex mites can be transferred between dogs; and this is when the mites are transmitted from the bitch to her pups, via direct contact
Other than during this brief period, the mite is not contagious. The affected puppies will carry the mite on their skin for the rest of their lives. Many of these animals never go on to develop skin disease; it is only in certain individuals where the mites multiply in numbers and cause disease

How will this parasite affect my pet?

In certain individuals, the dog becomes unable to keep the mite numbers under control; the mite numbers increase drastically, and start to cause clinical signs of skin disease
Disease caused by Demodex mites is called demodicosis, and symptoms include hair loss and inflamed patches of skin. The skin disease caused by this mite ranges from mild disease through to a severe condition

Can this parasite affect my health?

The Demodex mite of dogs and cats is not contagious to humans

Trombicula Autumnalis
Harvest Mite

Trombicula autumnalis are surface mites found worldwide. It will attack and parasitise any animal including humans, causing parasitic skin infestation (trombiculidiasis). Only the larval stage is parasitic however, and adult mites are found living in the soil.

The mites are bright orange in colour and hairy. They have six legs and no spiracles. They breathe through their cuticle.

The lifecycle of Trombicula autumnalis mites lasts around 50 to 70 days. The nymphal and adult stages are free-living in the soil. Eggs are laid in soil and once hatched, larvae climb up vegetation in search of a host to attach to. As the name suggests, numbers are greatest in 'harvest' time, late summer, in temperate climates and all year round in the tropics.

The larvae insert their mouthparts into the host's skin and inject cytolytic enzymes. They then feed on partly digested host tissue causing irritation and potentially a hypersensitivity reaction. The Mites are mainly found on the head, ears, toes and flanks of pets and can be found on the face and limbs of grazing animals, depending upon the host height.