How your dog comes into contact with parasites

Nobody wants a flea or tick infestation in their home, but often times when I’m talking to clients they have loads of questions about how this even happens. Do dog poos spread fleas? Can I get parasites from my dog? And more! I’m going to unpack the main ways your dog picks up parasites from the environment, and what we can do to prevent this from happening.

Fleas can survive on a huge range of host animals, but most commonly we find fleas on dogs, cats, rabbits and rats. This means that your pet encountering any of these animals poses a risk of flea contamination!

To complicate matters further, fleas can actually live off of a host species for up to two weeks, meaning they can be found living in carpets, bedding and even just the grass outside. This means that a dog contaminated with fleas can quickly go on to infect the whole house, neighbouring dogs and even friends at the dog park!

Whilst fleas can’t live on human hosts they can and do bite humans. Usually this will be around our ankle’s bites appear as small raised red marks, often clustered together. The best way to ensure we don’t experience these flea infestations is to keep up to date with regular parasite prevention treatment.

Ticks are a far more complicated parasite to track as they live on different hosts during each stage of their life cycle. Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult. Ticks are actually part of the spider family and there are at least 20 different tick species living in the UK right now. Ticks can live on a huge variety of animals, from birds and rodents to cattle and of course dogs.

Usually, our pets get ticks when they’re out walking with us and brush past a tick. The tick then uses its front legs to grab onto the animal and crawl on, where it’ll then latch and feed. Ticks then can live for up to two whole years, so we need to be able to spot them and remove them successfully from our dogs (no easy feat!) or ideally prevent them from latching on in the first place with parasite treatments.

Worms can be a little trickier as they’re all different varieties that infect our dogs in different ways! We will cover the most common two: roundworms and hookworms.

Roundworms are either passed on from mother dogs to puppies or from the environment. The roundworm eggs are often found in dog faeces, soil or dead birds even. Dogs with roundworm infection may appear malnourished, potbellied, and tired. They will usually be coughing and have vomiting or diarrhoea. These worms are also visible in their stools often.

Hookworms can be problematic in that they sometimes show little to no sign of infection in dogs. They are contracted in the same way as roundworms, but can also infect dogs via the skin (usually the feet). These worms latch onto the small intestine and feed on blood vessels here. Most UK foxes have a hookworm infection!

Symptoms of hookworm infection include:
diarrhoea, lethargy, pale gums and lack of appetite. Regular worming treatment will usually prevent infection of both of these worm varieties in dogs!

The most important thing we can do to keep are dogs free from all of the above parasites is keep up to date with effective, scientifically backed parasite prevention treatment. Knowing the signs and symptoms of infection is key too, and if you notice any of these please consult a vet immediately.