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Dog Health

Dog Health


What are worms?

Worms are internal parasites that can cause loss of condition and ill health in dogs as well as posing a potential risk to people. Most pets have worms, although it's not always easy to tell if your dog is infested as often there aren't any outward symptoms of ill health.


Symptoms are difficult to spot, but can include loss of condition, vomiting and diarrhoea. . By the time you notice these symptoms, the worms can be damaging your dog's health.

What causes worms?

Dog worms can be split into two groups - roundworms and tapeworms:


Roundworms are pale white to beige in colour and may be coiled like a spring. They grow to approximately 100mm in length and you may see them in your dog's faeces or vomit.

Dogs pick up roundworms by eating their larvae and the adult worm then develops inside the dog's body with worms and eggs being passed out in faeces. These eggs then develop into larvae and the cycle starts again.

The most common species of roundworm in dogs is Toxocara canis which can also infect people; children are particularly vulnerable as eggs can be picked up in contaminated soil. Once ingested by children, the worm larvae can migrate through the body and, if they reach the eyes, they may potentially cause damage to eyesight. This highlights how vital it is to 'pick up' after your dog.


Tapeworms are white or pale in colour and resemble flat segments filled with moving eggs that look like grains of rice. You might see tapeworm segments in faeces or near your pet's anus.

Dogs are infected with tapeworm by swallowing fleas while grooming. Once inside the dog's gut, the worm larvae carried by the flea develops into an adult worm that can grow up to 5 metres in length.


To treat worms, you should administer an effective wormer, following the manufacturer's recommendations.


It is far better to prevent your dog from ever getting worms, than to wait until there's a problem. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) recommends that dogs are wormed at least every 3 months. More regular treatment of young puppies is particularly important.

Your vet, country store, pet shop or pharmacist will be able to advise you on worming product


What are fleas?

Fleas are small, black blood-sucking insects that measure 1-3mm in length and are one of the most common parasites found on dogs. In fact, nearly all dogs will suffer from a flea infestation at some point in their lives.

The lifespan of a flea is a few months. Adult fleas are found in the dog's coat where they suck blood. The female fleas lay up to 50 eggs per day which are non-sticky and drop onto the floor, soft furnishings and bedding, as the dog wanders round the house. After a few days, the larvae hatch out and produce pupae (cocoons) which house the developing flea. The fleas that you may see on your dog are only the tip of the iceberg - 95% of the problem exists as eggs, larvae and pupae in the home. When fleas are fully grown they wait until a suitable host such as a dog or cat is nearby and emerge from the cocoon before jumping onto the host.

How can I tell if my dog has fleas?

The symptoms can vary from no visible signs to severe itching. This may involve scratching or commonly chewing the lower back or tail-base. Close inspection can reveal either small black insects or the small black flea faeces. Flea faeces can be identified by brushing your pet's coat with a fine-toothed flea comb and placing the debris you collect on a wet piece of white paper. Flea faeces will dissolve in the water to produce brown / red swirls on the paper.

If the infestation is very severe, it can result in severe blood loss causing anaemia - it can even kill a puppy. In allergic pets affected with Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) the itching and self-inflicted trauma that results from flea bites may be particularly severe.


A variety of products including collars, oral, spray and spot-on treatments are available to help treat dogs infested with fleas. For further information please contact your vet, country store, pet shop or pharmacist.


For effective control, treatment of all in-contact animals and the use of preparations that will target developing fleas in the home, as well as those that have an effect on adult fleas on pets, is important. If in doubt your veterinary surgery should be contacted for further advice.

Kennel Cough (canine infectious tracheobronchitis)

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious disease of a dog's respiratory tract caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. Commonly spread by airbourne droplets from coughing, sneezing or direct nose-to-nose contact, it often occurs following close contact with other dogs or a contaminated environment at boarding kennels, rescue centres, shows, training classes and on walks.

The disease can last for up to 6 weeks and on occasion more serious complications such as pneumonia develop, which may prove fatal in old, weak or very young dogs.


Symptoms include a harsh, dry, whooping-type cough which can cause retching, loss of appetite, raised temperature, tiredness and occasionally, pneumonia.

What causes kennel cough?

Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb) is the most common and significant underlying cause of kennel cough. However, a variety of viruses and bacteria cause respiratory disease including canine parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus 1 and 2, canine influenza and canine herpesvirus. Bb can also infect other species including cats and can be a rare risk to immune compromised humans (such as AIDS and chemotherapy patients).


Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are often used to treat kennel cough, and may alleviate the symptoms. However dogs may still be potentially contagious.

If you think your dog has kennel cough, please contact your vet for advice.


The disease is highly infectious and it is strongly advised to keep infected dogs away from healthy dogs. Ventilation and hygiene are important in reducing the risks of this disease. Vaccination against two important causes of kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza) is an important precaution that should be taken in reducing the risk from this disease. Vaccination is recommended in at risk dogs. Examples of potentially high-risk situations include boarding kennels, dog shows, breeding environments and dog training clubs.

Canine Parvovirus (CPV)

What is parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus is a potentially fatal and highly contagious disease that causes sudden and severe gastroenteritis in dogs. It is caused by a virus which survives in the environment for long periods of time (months to years depending on conditions). The source of the virus is the faeces of infected dogs and, once passed in faeces, the virus will lie in wait in the environment. It can also be easily spread on shoes, clothing and on the coat and footpads of pets. Fortunately, humans are unaffected by parvovirus although modern strains may be a risk to cats.

All unvaccinated pets are at risk of contracting parvovirus, particularly those in high-risk areas and puppies from 4 weeks of age. Outbreaks of the disease continue to be regularly reported around the UK.


Symptoms can appear very quickly and include depression, severe vomiting, refusing food and water, abdominal pain, dehydration and bloody diarrhoea. Occasionally, dogs may only show mild symptoms of disease.

Sadly, a significant number of dogs suffering from the disease die within 48-72 hours of being taken ill.

What causes parvovirus?

Parvovirus is caused by a highly contagious virus passed in infected dog's faeces. Infection occurs when a dog ingests or inhales the virus. Once a dog is infected, the virus can be passed out in faeces within 3-4 days, even before symptoms of disease become evident.


There is no specific treatment for parvovirus and affected dogs need intensive veterinary care to give them any chance of survival. It's therefore advisable to vaccinate dogs initially as puppies and then regularly as adults.

If you think your dog has parvovirus, please contact your vet immediately.


Vaccination against parvovirus is the only proven method of preventing the disease. If there is an outbreak of the disease in your locality, ideally keep your dog away from communal areas such as dog walks. It's also advisable to clean bedding and the bedding area with appropriate disinfectants.


What are ticks?

Ticks are small (up to 1cm long), greyish, bean-shaped insects that attach themselves to dogs and feed off their blood. Frequently found on the ears, face or legs, ticks are predominantly active during the spring and early summer and from late summer into autumn. They're often found in woodland, and rough grassland such as heath or moorland, and in areas populated by deer and other livestock. Areas with the highest prevalence in the UK include the Thetford forest in Norfolk, New Forest in Hampshire, Lake District, Yorkshire Moors, Scottish Highlands and the uplands of Wales.

Ticks can also carry a number of other potentially serious infectious diseases. Fortunately diseases from tick-borne infections are rare in the UK although Lyme disease is one potential risk that has been reported. Ticks in European countries including France and Germany can transmit a number of exotic and potentially serious diseases including babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.

How can I tell if my dog has ticks?

Ticks attach to the skin of dogs and look like bean-shaped warts. However, careful examination with a magnifying glass at the base of suspect "warts" may reveal the parasite's legs! The common ticks seen in the UK may vary in size from a few millimetres to over 1cm in length and from pale white in appearance to grey and bluish-black. While a single tick may go unnoticed on dogs, they may be painful and in large numbers can lead to anaemia.


Ticks are often difficult to remove as their mouthparts can remain embedded in the dog's skin, which may lead to irritation, infection and abscesses. It's therefore advisable to ask your vet's advice regarding treatment and the correct technique for removal.

A variety of topical products are available to help control ticks. For further information, contact your vet, country store, pet shop or pharmacist.