Unlike humans dogs can’t tell us if there’s something wrong with them, so watching out for signs is very important, if your dog starts scratching or gnawing at himself a lot this could be a sign of fleas or ticks. Fleas (siphonaptera) includes over 2500 species of flightless parasites which feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Adult fleas are about 3mm long with narrow bodies ideal for slipping between fur or feathers, they have strong claws which makes them difficult to dislodge. Fleas don’t have wings but are able to jump distances up to 50 times their body length.

With its long legs which are adapted for jumping, a flea can jump up to 18 cm vertically and 33 cm horizontally, instead of relying on just muscle power fleas have a band of elastic protein called Reslin which releases energy rapidly. The fleas body is coated in hard plates called Sclerites which are covered in spines and hairs to help it move about the host and can withstand great pressure. Fleas lay tiny oval eggs usually white, the larvae are small and worm like covered in bristles.

Once it reaches adulthood the fleas only interested in finding blood and reproducing, on average a flea will live for 2 or 3 months, under ideal conditions, temperature, blood supply and humidity, fleas have been known to live for 18 months, but this can be as little as a couple of days if it can’t find a host.


Once ticks latch on to a dogs skin they cause severe itchiness and inflamed skin, reaction to tick bites can include mild or high fevers, loss of appetite, pain and lethargy. Ticks can also transmit blood borne diseases like Lyme disease, encephalitis and tick paralysis which causes instant lameness, the dog appears to be asleep or in a coma, blood diseases can also cause severe anemia.

Ticks are small arachnids usually between 3 and 5mm long, ticks are ectoparasites surviving by feeding off the blood of animals and birds, unable to fly or jump they are usually transferred to a host from grass or leaves. The tick stays in place on the host until it is completely full, while feeding its weight may increase by 200 to 600 times its original mass.



Brush your dog with a fine toothed comb over a piece of white paper, any fleas or droppings should fall onto the paper, add a few drops of water, if the droppings turn a reddish brown colour, it is likely your dog as fleas. There are many safe, effective and easy to administer flea control products usually in tablet form or by adding liquid to the dogs skin, normally the back of the neck between the shoulder blades. Some flea control products only target adult fleas, whereas others target its other life stages like larvae or eggs. Once fleas get a hold they can be hard to get rid of, you may need to give the dog repeated treatments, also the dogs environment needs to be clear of fleas, this means vacuuming rugs and carpets and throwing out old dog blankets.

Many flea control products have formulations which will prevent ticks, avoid tick habitats like heavily wooded areas and long grass. If you do find a tick on your dog, grasp it with a pair of tweezers as close to the dogs skin as you can, exert gentle pressure until the tick lets go, there are also tick removal tools which are easy to use, never do this with your fingers.


There are different types of worm your dog can get, some more dangerous than others, some of them can be passed on to humans. It can be really difficult to tell which sort of worm your dog is infected with, symptoms can be so similar, if your dog is infected you may see evidence in its faeces. The most common types of worm that dogs get are Tapeworm, Roundworm, Whipworm, Hookworm, Heart and Lungworm.

Your dog should have a worm prevention treatment every 3 months, eating and drinking bowls should be cleaned and disinfected regularly, keep your dog away from other dogs that may not have been wormed. If you let your dog in the garden, always keep an eye on it, don’t let your dog pick up snails and worms etc, keep your dog away from other faeces.

Lung and Heartworms are the most dangerous, these can cause your dog real problems and can if not treated can eventually be fatal, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite are signs to look out for. There are plenty of prevention products to choose from, which protect against the different types of worm, most of these are just prevention not a cure if your dog already as them. If you are worried that your dog already as already been infected, then you need to get to a vet straight away, its always better to get it checked out, catch them early its better for the dog and it will probably be better for the wallet in the long run.

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michael simpson

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