How to check your dog for parasites

Checking your dog for parasites may lull you into a false sense of security. Unless your dog has a large infestation of fleas, a huge worm burden or a large number of ticks – you may not be able to find them.

How to tell if your dog has fleas

If your dog has any form of skin disease or is scratching, they may have fleas. Adult fleas are approximately 2 mm long and are shiny and brown. They run fast so can be elusive. Examine the skin on the rump of your dog. You may notice some little black soot like specks at the hair base near the skin. The best method of detection is by combing the coat onto damp white paper or tissue. Alternatively, put some of these black specks onto damp cotton wool and smear across with your fingertip. If you see a red streak develop, this is flea dirt (flea faeces) and not just mud!

How to tell if your dog has ticks

Ticks usually appear as small grey bean shaped objects attached to your dog’s skin - anywhere! They will embed themselves wherever they can get. Sometimes you may find them whilst grooming or stroking your dog. It is a good idea if you have been out for a walk in the countryside to just feel your dog all over and examine any little lumps you find. Sometimes a mole or skin tag can look like a tick so if in doubt, let your vet decide!

How to tell if your dog has worms

People often think that just because they don't see any worms in their dog’s faeces, that they cannot have them. Dogs can live quite happily with a few worms inside, and you would never see them. The exception is puppies where you may well see worms in the faeces or possibly in vomit.

Whole worms are often only passed out if the dog has been wormed, and even then, quite often the worms are digested by the body before they can be spotted. Flea tapeworm segments may be seen occasionally but the Echinococcus species are too small for the segments to be visible.

Another misconception is that dogs will have itchy bottoms if they get worms. Whilst this is theoretically possible, this suggestion has actually come from the fact that children with thread worms do have itchy bottoms. Dogs usually have itchy bottoms as a result of anal gland issues.


You cannot see the worm larvae which pass out in the dogs faeces, so don't bother to look. If you live in an area where lungworm is common or you suspect that your dog has come into contact with slugs and snails, then the safest thing to do is to get your dog onto a monthly prevention treatment for the disease. For further advice on lungworm >

How to prevent and treat parasitic disease

The take home message is that parasites may be there in, or on, your dog even if there are no outward signs. This is how parasites continue to multiply, thrive and cause disease.

With this in mind, our advice is to treat to prevent parasites on a regular basis rather than wait for problems to arise. Preventative treatment is so easy and effective these days, and is included in your Healthy Pet Club membership!

There are easy-to-use tablets or spot ons. Some need to be used monthly and some three monthly. There is no one treatment that covers everything but your local veterinary practice will decide which products are best suited to your dog.

Removing ticks

If you see a tick attached to your dog, you can remove it safely by using a special tool that you can get from your vets (tick twister). Never pull a tick out using tweezers or similar, as you may leave the ticks’ mouth parts under the skin which can lead to a nasty infection. For further advice on tick >