Dogs and cats are treated like members of our families, and like any member of your family, it's important to keep your companion healthy and free of parasites.
This is important as some parasites are zoonotic, meaning a disease or parasite that can be transmitted from animals to people.
A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gains its food from or at the expense of the host.
There are two main categories of parasites that pet parents should know about: internal and external. Internal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms live inside the body of an animal.
External parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites, live on the body of the host and can produce an irritating infestation.
Symptoms can vary depending on the type, where they live and the severity of infestation.
Most intestinal parasites will not show symptoms until the infestation has become severe.
Parasites can cause symptoms ranging from mild discomfort and intermittent diarrhoea, to severe issues such as anaemia (low red blood cells), skin disease, secondary infections and malnutrition.
There are a number of ways that dogs can contract parasites.
Fleas are typically caught from other infected animals.
Ticks are caught from travelling through bushes and long grass. Intestinal parasites are usually transmitted when an animal ingests the eggs or spores in contaminated soil, water or food.
Heartworm is contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Prevention involves, you guessed it, preventative care.
Fleas, ticks and mites require monthly prevention, while intestinal worms require 6-12 weekly prevention.
You can reduce the risk of parasitic infection to your family by practicing good hygiene, regular hand washing and disposing of your pets' faeces before the infective worm eggs distribute through the environment.
For more information about parasite control guidelines, ask your local vet.