There are so many parasites out there that we need to look out for, that we sometimes get confused about which parasite does what, and how to treat against it. This guide will make it easy for you to identify the parasite and its symptoms, and treat the problem.
Did you know? Medically, the term ‘infestation’ is often reserved only for external ectoparasitic infestations (like ticks and fleas), while the term ‘infection’ refers to internal endoparasitic conditions (like worms).
|Parasite||Tick||Flea||Mange||Roundworm and hookworm||Spirocerca lupi|
|Contraction method||Infested mammals drop ticks into the environment and pets pick them up. Ticks are often found in tall grass.||From the environment and other infested animals. The majority of the flea population (eggs, larvae and pupae) are found off the pet and in the environment.||There are two types: demodectic and sarcoptic.
All dogs raised normally by their mothers will have Demodex mites, which are transferred from the mother to the puppy. Most dogs never suffer any consequences from being parasitised. If the animal becomes stressed or immunosuppressed, the mites may proliferate and cause skin disease. Demodectic mange is rarely transmitted between dogs.
Sarcoptic mange, on the other hand, is highly contagious and can spread from pet to pet.
|Consuming worm eggs from soil that is contaminated with dog faeces in the environment (generally through normal grooming or self-licking). Infected mothers can infect their puppies.
Also, infection can occur through consuming prey (usually a rodent) who is carrying developing worms.
Lastly, during embryonic development, when an infected mother dog is pregnant (most puppies are infected this way).
|By eating intermediate hosts – like coprophagous (feeding on dung) beetles – and a variety of paratenic hosts (like lizards and birds who have eaten the beetles).|
|Symptoms||The bite itself is not usually painful, but the parasite can transmit diseases like babesiosis and ehrlichiosis (tick bite fever), which can be fatal.||Itching and other skin problems. Fleas can transmit diseases and other parasites, like tapeworm.||Sarcoptic mange is very itchy but demodectic is usually not itchy initially. Secondary skin infestations can result in itching and hair loss, along with crusting and scaling of the skin.||Infections can sometimes be completely without symptoms, but can cause diarrhoea, possibly vomiting, and weight loss, especially as the numbers increase. Very large amounts of worms may cause an intestinal obstruction.||Various signs can be present, but the most common are vomiting, regurgitation, weight loss and fever.|
|Frequency of appearance||Very common if the pet does not get preventative treatment.||Very commonly found.||Common in shelter animals or animals who are immunocompromised.||Common in young dogs and dogs who frequent areas where other dogs have been.
|Frequency of infection has decreased as awareness of the disease has increased.|
|Treatment||Remove ticks. The tick-borne diseases should be treated by a veterinarian.||The transmitted diseases need to be treated by a veterinarian. Use preventative treatment.||Ivermectin (off-label use).||Deworm with one of the many products that are available on the market (ask your veterinarian if you are not sure). A once-off treatment will not be sufficient to clear an infection, as the medications essentially anaesthetise the worm so that it lets go of its grip on the host’s intestine and passes out with the stool. Once it has been passed, it cannot survive in the environment and dies. But the larvae that are still migrating to the intestine are not affected and will replace the previous worms. Therefore, a second and possibly a third deworming are needed, two weeks apart.||Doramectin is the current drug of choice, as it effectively kills adult worms and decreases eggs, but it is used off-label.|
|Prevention||Use a residual pesticide that is registered for the treatment of ticks on dogs and cats. DO NOT use dog products on cats.||The ideal flea control programmes use products that target all of the various stages of the flea lifecycle, and treat the pet’s environment. Treat all pets with a monthly flea control product. Vacuum all carpets and upholstery to get rid of flea eggs and then discard the vacuum bag. Treat the environment with a product that is safe for pets.||Ensure pets are healthy and are fed a good-quality diet. Don’t breed with dogs who have or have had demodectic mange.||Remove and discard dog faeces promptly, before worm eggs permanently contaminate the soil. Regularly deworm (see treatment above).||Promptly dispose of faeces to keep dung beetles away. Try to prevent dogs from eating or catching paratenic hosts.
Can use Milbemax every two weeks as a preventative treatment. Advocate can also be used monthly as a preventative treatment.
Doramectin can be used as an off-label treatment.
|Effects on humans||Ticks can transmit diseases like tick bite fever to humans.||Fleas can transmit diseases like cat scratch fever to humans.||Only sarcoptic mange is zoonotic (transmitted from animals to humans) and it causes red itchy bumps on the skin.||Humans can get infected by eating uncooked meat or unwashed vegetables that have been in contact with contaminated soil. Larval migration through the skin from soil can also occur.