Dogs Trust

Worms, ticks and fleas


Almost all dogs will become infected with worms at some point in their lives, with puppies being especially at risk. An untreated worm infestation can lead to a loss of condition in the adult dog and occasionally, more serious illness in puppies.

The larvae of some types of intestinal worms in dogs (roundworms) can cause a disease called larval migrans in people, especially children. Some species of tapeworms in dogs can also infect people.

As a responsible dog owner, it is important for you to worm your dog regularly.

  1. Dogs with worms may not show signs of illness, except when the worms are present in large numbers.
  2. Puppies are especially at risk from worm infections. Roundworms can be passed from the mother before birth, and after, through her milk. Infestation may cause weight loss, a swollen abdomen, vomiting and diarrhoea. A worming regime which is appropriate for your puppy/dog should be discussed with your registered vet. This will depend on your dog's age and lifestyle.
  3. The two main types of worms which may infect dogs are Tapeworms (Dipylidium species) and Roundworms (Toxocara canis).
  4. Roundworms are spread through the environment or from mother to puppy, as described previously. Tapeworms are spread through an intermediate host (usually the flea). The intermediate host is necessary to form part of the life-cycle; more development stages take place in the intermediate host.
  5. Both types of worms are easy to eliminate, and suitable preparations are available through your veterinary surgeon.
  6. Remember, if your dog has tapeworm you must also treat him for fleas.
  7. As a responsible dog pet owner, you should always carry a poop-scoop or plastic bag with you to clean up after your dog. Regular worming will help to minimise the amount of egg contamination in the environment.

Fleas and Ticks

Many dogs may suffer from a flea infestation at some point in their lives. Dogs can become infected by fleas at any time of the year. For this reason, treatment against fleas should be provided throughout the year.

  1. The length of the flea life-cycle depends on temperature and humidity. In an ideal environment the cycle can be around 21 days.
  2. The most common flea on both dogs and cats is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis).
  3. Some dogs will develop a hypersensitivity to flea saliva and this can lead to an itchy reaction. One or two fleas would be quite enough to cause a marked irritation. This flea reaction may be most evident on the rump area but many other areas of the body can be involved. The itching can be intense.
  4. The female flea lays her eggs on the dog's coat, these fall off and can be found wherever your dog spends most of his time - in his bedding, in the carpet, on the sofa, or even in your bed!
  5. Adult fleas do not live for long on your dog and die after 7-14 days - only to be replaced by the ones developing in the environment. Approximately 5% of a flea infestation compromises of adult fleas on your dog. The other 95% are the developing stages in the environment.
  6. The flea feeds by ingesting blood from your dog several times a day.
  7. More often than not an owner will notice small specks of grit on the dog's coat. To establish whether this is flea dirt, brush the coat and allow the material to fall onto a moist white tissue. Flea dirt will produce a red mark.
  8. Dogs can also pick up fleas from outside the home or from other animals.
  9. Fleas are also the intermediate host of the tapeworm. Therefore it is important to remember when treating your dog for fleas, to treat him for tapeworms too.
  10. Effective flea treatment and control involves treating both the environment and the dog (for all the reasons stated above). Speak to your vet about the prescription products available that are safe to use on your dog.
  11. Treatment of the environment involves using a recommended aerosol spray and regular vacuuming - don't forget under the skirting boards, under the sofa cushions and the dog's bedding.
  12. Ticks can be picked up by your dog anywhere. They grow in size as they feed on your dog’s blood, and prompt removal is necessary as they can pass on disease to your dog as they feed.
  13. If your find a tick on your dog, it is best to ask your vet practice how to safely remove it.
  14. Ask your vet for advice on which tick products are suitable to use on your dog.