Common Dog Parasites to Watch Out For

Optimum M6 image - Common parasites in dogs - 900x600

Photo by Michael G on Unsplash

Common Dog Parasites to Watch Out For

Dogs are active creatures who love to explore the great outdoors and interact with other animals. While this is great for their physical and mental wellbeing, all of this comes with the risk of contracting parasites, which can cause a range of health problems in dogs. It’s important to be aware of the common parasites your pet might encounter and the signs to look out for that could indicate they’ve contracted one.

What is a parasite?

A parasite is an organism that feeds on another organism (such as dogs), known as a host. While the parasites themselves rarely kill their host, they often carry diseases that can be life-threatening.

How can your dog get a parasite?

Parasites can be found anywhere, and your dog can contract them in different ways. Most commonly, dogs are exposed to them through contact with infected animals or with the infected animal’s faeces. Fleas and ticks are notorious for being carried by animals, however, dogs can also get parasites from eating infected food or through the environment.

You can minimise your dog’s risk of parasites by avoiding high-risk areas, such as long grass, as well as making sure their food is fresh and their environment is clean.

Parasite symptoms

Different types of parasites have varying symptoms, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for anything unusual with your dog's behaviour or appearance. Some tell-tale signs of parasites include:

- Scratching or biting of the skin

- Irritated or red skin

- Lethargy or fatigue

- Vomiting or diarrhoea

- Weight loss, even with an increased appetite

Types of parasites

There are many types of parasites that can affect dogs, including fleas, ticks, ear mites, and worms.


Fleas are small, wingless insects that feed on an animal's blood, and are common among household pets like cats and dogs. They’re dark brown in appearance and leave droppings, known as ‘flea dirt’, which looks like black pepper and can often be spotted on your pet, on their bedding, or around the home. A flea infestation can cause skin irritation, and in some cases, transmit tapeworms, so regular preventative flea treatments are essential.


Ticks are parasites that feed on blood and can carry diseases such as Lyme disease and other potentially fatal infections. They look like small spiders and can range in colour from a reddish-brown to black. They’re sometimes difficult to spot because they're so small, but they usually grow in size as they feed, and can remain attached to the body for up to 10 days. You can prevent and treat ticks with preventative treatments, by regularly checking your dog, and by avoiding tick-infested places, like grassy and wooded areas.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny parasites that live inside the ears of dogs. They can cause intense itching and inflammation of the ear canal and lead to ear infections if left untreated. They look like tiny white dots but are very difficult to spot with the naked eye, so are usually identified through signs like itching, head shaking, and dark, waxy ear discharge.


There are several types of intestinal worms that can affect dogs, including roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. These can cause a range of symptoms, including weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. Dogs can catch worms from fleas, from eating another dog’s faeces or worm eggs found in the environment, and in some cases, by being passed on from their mother before birth or via her milk.

Diagnosis and treatment of parasites in dogs

Dogs are usually diagnosed with a parasite through a physical exam, blood test, or stool sample, and the treatment your vet advises will depend on the type of parasite they have. These treatments can include medication, topical applications, and, in severe cases, even surgery.

How to prevent parasites

Preventing parasites in dogs involves taking proactive measures like keeping your dog's bedding and environment clean, treating your dog's environment with pest control products, and keeping your dog on regular parasite preventative medication. It's also important to feed your {dog a healthy diet} and to look after their hygiene, as this will promote their overall health and well-being, and support a healthy immune system.

Why prevention of parasites is important

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to parasites. Left untreated, parasites can cause serious health issues for your dog, including anaemia, organ damage, and even death. Don't hesitate to reach out to your vet if you suspect your dog may have a parasite, as early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference.


As a responsible dog owner, it's essential to be aware of the common parasites in your area and take steps to protect your dog. By staying vigilant, watching for symptoms, and taking preventative measures, you can make sure your dog stays happy and healthy for years to come. For more tips and advice on caring for your dog, check out our pet care blog.

© 2023 Mars or Affiliates.