Signs your Dog has a Parasite

Dr Kate Mornement - Vet and Pet Behaviourist profile picture

Dr Kate Mornement - Vet and Pet Behaviourist

PhD in Companion Animal Behaviour, BSc(Hons) in Zoology

Dr Kate Mornement is an Applied Animal Behaviourist, Consultant and Educator to pet parents, industry, government and media. She has a PhD which focused on companion animal behaviour from Monash University and a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Zoology (Animal Behaviour) from Latrobe university.

Signs your Dog has a Parasite

Keeping your dog parasite free is important for their health and happiness. Fleas, mites, ticks and worms can cause discomfort and can lead to serious illness if left untreated.

You may notice changes in your dog’s behaviour caused by common parasites.

Being able to recognise the symptoms of common parasites will ensure that you can treat your dog appropriately. So what are the behaviours you should look for?

The most common dog behaviours that can indicate the presence of parasites include:

1. Your Dog is Scratching

Occasional scratching is a normal behaviour in dogs; however, excessive scratching is a common symptom of parasites such as fleas and mites. If you notice your dog scratching more than normal, check their fur and skin for signs of fleas or mites. Some common signs include: flea dirt, live fleas or mites, eggs or redness and blood spots on the surface of the skin. If you cannot find any signs of fleas or mites, your dog might have a different health problem, such as an ear infection or sensitive skin due to an allergy.

2. Your Dog is Licking

Licking is also a normal behaviour in dogs : however, if the licking becomes excessive, this could indicate the presence of parasites - such as worms or fleas. Dogs may lick or bite their bottom area more often if they have worms. Excessive licking due to fleas or mites may result in bald patches or thinning fur in the most licked areas . Again, if you cannot find any signs of fleas or mites on your dog’s fur or skin, and you’ve treated them for worms, they may have a different health problem.

3. Your dog is Scooting

Scooting is when a dog drags his bottom along the ground, and it is a common symptom of worms. Scooting canindicate discomfort associated with the anal glands. When the anal glands are inflamed or impacted, dogs will scoot to help relieve the pain and irritation. This behaviour may require a visit to the vet to have the glands expelled.

4. Your dog has Weakness or Difficulty Breathing

Common symptoms of tick paralysis may include vomiting, weakness, collapse, difficulty breathing, excessive salivation and a change in the sound of your dog’s bark. Take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice any of these changes in behaviour, as tick paralysis can be fatal . Fortunately, tick prevention is very effective in avoiding tick bite paralysis.

5. Your Dog has Vomiting or Diarrhoea

Vomiting and/or diarrhoea in your dog could indicate the presence of parasites, particularly worms: however, it can also be symptoms of other serious health issues.. Persistent diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to dehydration. If vomiting or diarrhoea is severe or continues for longer than 24 hours, take your pet to the vet.

6. Your Dog is more Lethargic

Reduction in activity levels or lethargy in your dog could be due to common parasites, particularly worms and ticks. Worms feed on blood and nutrients, and can cause your dog’s energy levels to drop. Similarly, a tick bite can cause fatigue and lethargy, in addition to other symptoms. This can be life threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Common parasites like fleas, mites, ticks and worms are easily treated at home.

However, it’s important to remember that although the above mentioned behaviours may indicate the presence of parasites, they can also be signs of other illnesses.

For this reason, it’s best to take your dog to the vet for a thorough check up if you’re unsure, the symptoms persist or if your dog is in pain, distress or discomfort.

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