Think of parasites on our pets and fleas normally spring (excuse the pun) to mind. The truth is our furry friends are under a bombardment of many types of parasite, some you can see with the naked eye and some you can’t without a microscope. This Pets4Homes article looks at 11 kinds of parasites that can bug your pets.
The number one parasite, these wingless critters are predominately cat fleas - which they share with dogs. They can cause Flea Allergy Dermatitis in pets sensitive to the proteins in the flea's saliva when they bite. They can also live without feeding on a blood meal for up to a year! Fleas spend much of their lives in the environment, in fact, only 5% of fleas are found in pets, meaning 95% are in the carpets, upholstery and even between cracks in the laminate floor, in their different stages.
When treating the environment for fleas, don’t forget to treat everywhere the pet goes, including the car!
These horrible little bloodsuckers can grow to almost the size of a five pence piece, just by gorging on blood meals - with your pets the victims. Unfortunately, with ticks’ humans can also be victims, and tick-borne disease such as Lyme Disease is a real threat. It is why preventing these hunters is vital in the first place on your pets.
Ticks really are hunters as they do something called questing - climbing to the top of vegetation and sniffing, waiting for their next meal to walk by before they pounce.
Hopefully, you clean up after your dog, but do you know the real reason why? Other than it being very unpleasant to step in, one normal amount of dog faeces can contain one million roundworm eggs. These eggs can then infect the next dog that comes along sniffing! Because even cleaning up, you can leave many eggs behind, regular worming of your dog is the safest way to make sure they covered. Roundworms live in the intestines and can come up in vomit or be shed in faeces.
Ever see what looks like grains of rice around your cat’s bottom? Perhaps you may have seen them in their litter tray? These rice looking objects are actually eggs, that have crawled from your pet’s bottom.
Amazingly these segments are also both male and female can actually fertilise themselves.
What about dogs? It is one of the main reasons dog’s scoot, as their bottoms are often itchy. If you find your dog rubbing or licking their behind, they can infected with tapeworm. The dog tapeworm can also infect cats!
These are not one of your most heard of parasites, but often can affect dogs. They are called whipworms because of a long whiplike segment at one end of the worm. These worms live in your dog's intestines and feed on blood and tissue fluids.
Whipworms are contracted from eggs in the environment, where the previously infected dog has defecated and left eggs behind. These worms can often cause diarrhoea, but also if left untreated can cause anaemia from feeding on your dog’s blood. They can make puppies particularly sick, especially if the pup has a heavy burden of worms.
In cat’s hookworm infection is quite rare, these are usually the parasites of the dog. They are also a bit of a vampire parasite, as they live in your dog's guts, clinging to the wall and sucking their blood. They are caught usually from the dog eating or playing with fox faeces – it is thought around 68% of foxes are infected with hookworm. If a dog has hookworm, common symptoms are diarrhoea, anaemia, weight loss, and lethargy.
This is a mite that burrows into the skin and can cause severe itching, loss of hair, and a red or crusty rash. Out of all the parasites animals can get, this one causes the itchiest skin. Also known as a zoonotic mite, meaning humans can catch it as well – and it will easily transfer if proper care is not taken. In humans, it is better known as scabies (which comes from the name).
Angiostrongylus vasorum is the dog lungworm and it can be fatal. It lives in the heart and arteries of your dog and can cause abnormal bleeding, respiratory distress, and coughing. It is also getting more and more common in the UK and is caused by infected snails and slugs. These are easily ingested by a dog that is sniffing around in the grass, drinking from puddles, or even licking at slime trail. Statistically, younger dogs are more at risk, because they put more things in their mouths!
These are mites that live in the hair follicles in your pet's skin. They usually live quite happily on your pet and don’t cause a problem, however, if the numbers get too large, they can cause a nasty rash and hair loss. These mites also live on humans (in the eyelashes) but are too small to be seen without a microscope. Because of the shape of the mites – they are long and thin, they are known in the veterinary world as the cigar mite. If an animal is infected with too many and they have fur loss, the condition is termed Demodectic mange.
These small parasites are the most common cause of ear ‘infections’ in dogs. They are really uncomfortable for your pet and crawl around causing inflammation, irritation and allowing bacteria or yeast infections to become prevalent. They are also very contagious and will move from your pet to another fairly easily. Usually the signs are a lot of head shaking and scratching at the ears. These mites can also be seen just about with the naked eye, especially if a torch shone down the pet's ear.
Although this is not found as yet in the UK or Ireland, it is still worth mention as it is becoming more prevalent. The place it is normally found is in southern Europe, so if going abroad, your pet should be covered for heartworm from the vet. The disease is spread by mosquitoes and can cause hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, respiratory distress, lethargy and if untreated can be fatal.
Many of the above parasites can cause pets a great deal of discomfort and illness – the only way to stop this from happening is by prevention, stopping these parasites from becoming established in the first place. Many pets are born with certain parasites, but these can be treated by the vet and allow the animal to be healthy and happy. If you are concerned about parasites in your pet, please speak to your own vet for further advice.