Dealing with parasites

There are so many parasites out there we need to look out for that we sometimes get lost in which parasite does what, and how to treat against it. This guide will make it easy for you to identify the parasite, its symptoms and treat the problem.


Ticks Fleas Mange Worms Spirocerca lupi
Contraction method Infested mammals drop ticks into the environment and pets pick them up. Ticks are especially 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. Rarely can it be transmitted between dogs.

Sarcoptic mange 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). Infested mothers can infest their puppies. Also, infestation can occur through consuming a prey animal (usually rodent) that is carrying developing worms. Lastly, during embryonic development when an infested mother dog is pregnant (most puppies are infested this way). By eating intermediate hosts (coprophagous 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 infestations 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. Infestations can 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, especially in young dogs and dogs who frequent areas where other dogs have been.


Frequency of infestation 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 infestation, 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 old worms. Therefore a second and possibly a third deworming is needed two weeks apart. Doramectin is the current drug of choice as it is effectively killing adult worms and decreasing 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 are to 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 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 control dung beetles. Try to prevent dogs from eating or catching paratenic hosts.

Can use Milbemax every two weeks as a preventative treatment. Using Advocate monthly can also be used as a preventative treatment. Doramectin can be used as an off-label treatment.

Effects on humans Ticks can transmit diseases to humans like tick bite fever. Fleas can transmit diseases to humans like cat scratch fever. Only sarcoptic is zoonotic and it causes red itchy bumps on the skin. Humans can get infested 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.





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