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Common Pests and Prevention


Worm infections in dogs are common in the UK. Young dogs have a particularly low resistance to infection, so it is important to start worming your puppy from around 2 weeks old. Your dog should be wormed regularly throughout their life also, around once every 3 months. Worms found in the UK rarely lead to visible illness in pets so it is easy to get complacent. However worms carried by dogs are a big health risk, not only to your pet and your family, but to other people and animals.

There are many different types of worms including:

•Roundworms: Dogs can be infected with roundworms through ingestion of the faeces of infected animals, across the placenta from their mother during pregnancy and through their mother’s milk. Some common clinical signs of roundworms include diarrhoea, vomiting, coughing and a swollen abdomen. Humans can also be infected, with children most at risk.

•Tapeworms: Tapeworms attached themselves to the wall of the dog’s intestines. There are different types of tapeworms and different ways dogs can become infected by them. The most common way of infection is through fleas, flea larvae swallow tapeworm eggs and become infected. If dogs swallow these fleas whilst grooming they will become infected too. Tapeworms don’t pose great health risks, but it can cause irritation and itchiness to your pet.

•Hookworms: Are rare in the UK, but can be a threat to both dog and human health. Eggs shed into the environment by infected animals develop into larvae, dogs can be infected if they burrow into the dog’s skin (usually via the feet) or if swallowed. Infection with hookworms can lead to anaemia, internal bleeding and skin disease.

•Whipworms: Again these are quite rare in the UK, they can only infect dogs if worms or large numbers of eggs are swallowed. Clinical signs of whipworms can include weight loss, dehydration, pale eyelids and gums. They present no risk to humans.

Regular worming is the only practical method of control, as you cannot protect your pet from coming into contact with these parasites. If your dog is due to travel, it is law to have them wormed, for their own safety and to prevent spreading foreign parasites into the UK.

There are a wide range of dog de-wormers available including basic multi-wormers and combination medications, which come in both tablets and palatable chews. You can get these from your vet but they are also available in many supermarkets and pet shops.


Fleas are one of the most common parasites that are caught by dogs. Fleas are hardy insects; they live for 6 to 12 months and are capable of producing millions of offspring in this time. They can cause your dog to suffer anything from mild skin irritations to severe allergic reactions, and extreme infestations can cause anaemia and even death.

Signs that your dog has got fleas include scratching, dark specs and scabs on their skin. When combing your dog’s coat with a fine comb you may be able to see them, they are small black insects about 2mm in length.

There are numerous treatments for fleas available, some kill the adult fleas on your dog and some eliminate eggs by preventing them from hatching. Many scientists believe that using a combination of both maybe the most effective, this is known as Integrated Flea Control. You should also treat your pet’s home too, by vacuuming and cleaning bedding.


Ticks are small, rounded insects that feed on the blood of their hosts. They tend to hide in tall plants or grass in wooded areas and often seek out mammals, as they are attracted to warmth and motion. Ticks are frequently found on areas of your dog where hair cover is thin, such as face, ears or abdomen. Ticks are most commonly found between March and June, and August and November.

If a tick is attached to your dog’s skin, they will resemble a small smooth blood blister or wart. Your dog may not notice a tick, but they can irritate your dog’s skin if they have an allergic reaction. If your dog has a heavy infestation of ticks, anaemic or even paralysis is a possibility. Another danger of ticks is that they can be carriers of disease, such as Lyme disease.

To treat ticks it is always best to see your vet and get them to remove the insects. Attempting to remove them yourself may lead to the mouthparts remaining embedded in your dog’s skin, which can lead to irritation, infection and abscess. There are also many types of insecticide sprays and shampoos available to buy that will kill ticks, and if used regularly will help prevent infestation.