is Parasite Month

Whilst parasites are amazing and ingenious things and will be around long after we have all gone, they can cause us and our pet’s distress and ill health.

Some are very species specific  while others will go on a range of species including us!!

Diseases that can be transmitted to man are called Zoonosis.


Fleas are no longer a seasonal problem with the advent of central heating and animals living indoors, all year is summer for a flea!! Fleas are not bothered by their environment, they can breed on pretty much any flooring, laminate flooring does not make your house flea free!!!

With any flea problem 95% of the problem is in your house! and only 5% on your animal. Once a flea problem is established even with extensive treatment it will take a minimum of 2 weeks to be flea free. Therefore prevention is definitely better than cure. When treating the environment you are mainly targeting the larvae as they are the easiest part of the life cycle to kill and it is important to remember they are photophobic (don’t like the light)


Low numbers of lice are often fairly symptomless.

There are 2 broad classes of lice – sucking lice that have a pointy head and feed off blood and biting lice with a short wide head that eat skin and debris.

They produce eggs that stick to the hairs called nits (just like head lice in children) and these are often the first thing that is noted.

Lice are generally species specific and so rarely cause a risk to other animal species living in the same environment or us.

A large infestation of sucking lice in the very old or very young can cause anaemia and transport other parasites such as the tapeworm diphylidium caninum.

Almost every specie has its own set of lice.

There are several spot-on treatments that will kill the lice if your animal does get them but which one is best depends on which specie of animal you have.


Ticks are normally found as a small white or grey lump attached to your dog or cats skin.

They attach to the animals skin by embedding their mouth parts into the skin.

Ticks put their saliva into their ‘Host’ and remove their hosts blood.

In the UK they can carry Lyme Disease which can then be transmitted to your pet or yourselves if you are bitten by a tick. At the least you tend to get a localised bacterial infection.

Lyme disease can cause a variety of symptoms from lameness, loss of appetite, depression, swollen joints, generalised pain, fever and swollen lymph nodes. If caught early it can be treated with antibiotics.

There are treatments that will kill ticks once they have bitten the animal and a treatment that prevents them attaching, please ask at the surgery for more details.

Sarcacoptes Scabiei

This is a mite that lives under the skin.

These cause intense itchiness and in the early stages the itchy scabby areas are the ear tips/flaps and the hock and elbow areas.

If untreated it spreads to most of the animal.

This is a zoonosis, humans can catch this from animals, but be warned your dog can also catch it from you!!!!

This is very rarely seen in cats.

Sarcoptes scabiei is often known as fox mange and foxes are definitely a natural pool for sarcoptes.

Guinea pigs also very commonly get a mite very closely related to sarcoptes called Trixacarus Caviae.

Sarcoptes Scabiei burrows deep into the skin and can be difficult to find even on skin scrapes.

There are spot-ons and products available that can prevent it.

Please ring the surgery for more details


There are several tapeworms in the UK

Echinococcus Granulosus

Taenia Species

Dipylidium Caninum

They are a wormsonsisting of a chain of segments or proglottids. They attach their head to the wall of the intestine. The proglottids mature as they move down the worm and new proglottids are produced. When they are at the end of the worm the eggs are mature, the proglottid segment drops off and crawls out of the animal’s anus. This can give them an itchy bottom.

Most tapeworms have an intermediate life-cycle which means they need an intermediate host that the immature worms can develop and mature in. Sometimes these intermediate hosts can become ill but not always.

Often in adult animals the dog/cat can be symptom free but are obviously spreading the worms around the environment.

Echinococcus Granulosus

This worm has two main areas of the Country in which it is found, Central Wales and the Hebridean Islands. It is found in dogs with access to sheep carcases or fed offal.

Teania Species

These are not seen in puppies until they are at least eating solid food. The cat or dog can get this tapeworm by huntingor being fed a raw meat diet.The main Taenia worm found in cats is the Taenia taeniaformis whose intermediate host is the mouse, but dogs can get a range of different Taenia Species. Humans are unlikely to catch these tapeworms as they are fairly species specific.

Dipylidium Caninum

The intermediate host for the Dipylidium Caninum is the flea or louse. Therefore if your dog or cat has one it will have the other. It is important with any tapeworm infection to de-flea your animal and equally if you have a flea outbreak you need to treat your animal with a wormer that will kill this worm. Otherwise the cycle will not be broken.


These are non-segmented worms, some of which can be zoonotic. The important ones in the UK are;

Toxocara Canis

This worm’s lifecycle is complicated but the larval stages can form cysyts in the body. In young children these cysts can form in the back of the eye. The larvae can also migrate around the body of the dog or human and can cause symptomsdepending on the organ they are moving through, such as the liver or the lungs.

Most puppies are born with Toxocara Canis as they get it through their mother’s milk or via the placenta. Bitches can be treated when they are pregnant to prevent them being passed on to the puppies. If not the puppies should be treated at two weeks old then ideally every two weeks until they are big enough to have a tablet wormer. This is especially important if you are re-homing a puppy into a household with children. When handling any dog but especially puppies it is important to have good hygiene and had washing.

Toxocara Cati

This the cat version of Toxocara Canis. However kittens cannot get it through the placenta so they begin to get infected through the milk.

Toxocara Cati is also a zoonosis and causes similar signs to Toxocara Canis.

Toxocaris Leonina

This is rare in the UK and is generally seenin greyhound kennels due to the large number of dogs on pasture.

       Uncinaria stenocephala – Hookworm

This worm is endemic in our fox population and can cause diarrhoea and dermatitis in our pet dogs. It is most commonly seen in kennel environments. This worm is not zoonotic


Trichuris vulpis – whipworm


This can cause severe and bloody Diarrhea, it is mainly seen in kennels but the animal may have become infected sometime before theybecame ill. More common in the south of the UK due to the warmer climate.

Lungworm  – Angiostrongylus vasorum -(French Heartworm)

The symptoms of this wormcan vary greatly, from an intermittent harsh dry cough, anaemia, depression, anorexia and clotting problems. In severe infections the dog can develop right sided heart failure, weight loss and sudden death can occur.

Diagnosis is made by feacal samples but the larvae can be shed only intermittently and therefore repeated feacal samples can be needed.

A bronchio-alveolar lavage can also be carried out. This is where sterile fluid is passed into the lungs and then re-expressed to try and harvest some larvae.

Currently there is only one product that prevents lungworm Please ask at the surgery for further information.