Southern Flatcoated Retriever Club         



General Health

Health in your Flatcoat

This page offers some helpful information regarding the health of your Flatcoat, common parasites, dangerous conditions, and poisonous substances you should be aware of. The information on this page is not exhaustive, if in any doubt about your dog, please in the first instance contact your vet immediately.



Know Your Dog

It is really important to know your dog. Only if you know what is normal in your dog will you realise when they are ill. You should know the colour of their gums, the smell of their breath and ears. You should known how much water they drink, how many times they need to go in the garden, and the colour of their faeces and what level of activity do they have on walks !Any deviation from what you know could be the first signs of illness, catching an illness early could make all the difference in your dogs quality of life.




There are many types of parasites known to afflict dogs, here are a brief few.


Fleas : These are the scourge of modern, heated households, where they breed very quickly in the warm conditions. These fast moving brown fleas can be seen by the naked eye and are intensely irritating, often causing an allergic skin reaction where bites have occurred. Treatment Flea shampoos can rid your dog of a particular infestation. For effective, long term prevention, use hand-pump sprays and spot-ons (drops applied directly to the skin) to stop flea eggs or larvae from hatching. It is important to treat the home environment too, wash bedding frequently to avoid re-infestation.


















Harvest Mites : These often are found around the head, ears and toes. These bright orange-red parasites only live on dogs in their larval stage and are intensely irritating. Treatment Your vet can give you a strong shampoo but anti-inflammatory drugs may also be needed to reduce the skin irritation.


Demodex : This mite causes alopecia, scaling and pustules on the skin. Demodex is diagnosed by analysing a scraping from your dogs skin. Treatment In puppies sometimes it is unnecessary, but your vet may recommend a medicated shampoo.


Sarcoptes Mange Mites : This tiny mite, carried by foxes, causes intense skin irritation and sores and is very serious. A skin scraping and blood test will confirm this. Treatment - Medicated shampoo, and specific spot on formulation.


Ticks :These anchor themselves to the dogs skin using their mouths and suck blood, swelling to the size of a pea. Treatment - The flea/tick treatment you get from your vet generally works against ticks, but do ask your vet or veterinary nurse for recommendations. It is very important that the mouth parts of the tick are not left in the skin, as this can cause localised infection.













Worms :There are many types of internal worms Hookworm, Roundworm, Tapeworm and Whipworm. All can be treated by the vet, the most common is Roundworm, there are two types Toxocara Canis and Toxascaris Leonina. A serious dose of Roundworm in a puppy can cause a pot bellied appearance, diarrhoea, a dull coat, and loss of weight, or slow weight gain and can sometimes cause stunted development in the puppy. Treatment - Regular worming is essential to keep worms at bay, every 3 months your dog should be treated. If you dog does have worms, your vet can give you some worming pills.


Lungworm : This is a common parasite in the South, but can be found throughout the UK. Dogs get the parasite by eating infected snails, slugs or frogs. The larvae grow inside the dog, and eventually come to live in its heart and major blood vessels. The worms can cause breathing difficulties, heart problems and pneumonia. After 28 days the worms produce their own larvae which can cause some very serious problems. The larvae can cause haemorrhages everywhere in the body, if left untreated they can be fatal. Lungworm can be difficult to diagnose, but in general dogs cough, have breathing problems, are lethargic, and if they get a small cut they will bleed for longer. Treatment Speak to your vet who will advise on the treatment, it is relatively simple to get rid of lungworm unless there has been damaged caused by the worms. Lungworm can be prevented, by adding it into the dogs normal worming medication routine.











You should not hesitate to contact your vet if your dog comes into contact with anything hazardous or potentially hazardous. A few poisonous substances are listed below.


Antifreeze, Screen Wash & De-icer : These if consumed by dogs can be fatal, antifreeze in particular is sweet to taste, so must be kept out of the way of animals. Ensure you dispose of empty containers carefully.


Poisonous Plants, Garden and Household substances : Factsheet (with kind permission of the Dogs Trust.


Human” Food : Chocolate can be very toxic to dogs, the higher the cocoa content the increased toxicity, therefore dark chocolate is the most dangerous. Other foods toxic to dogs include grapes, raisins and onions.


Other Substances : You should assume that all medicine designed for humans could be toxic to dogs, in particular paracetamol. It has been found that E-Cigarettes can be fatal, the high levels of nicotine in the cigarette and the refills can be incredibly toxic, please be careful with these products.





Bloat/Gastric Dilation Volvulus

This condition can be fatal, it is caused by the stomach becoming enlarged with fluid, air and/or food. This can develop into Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) which is stomach torsion or twisted stomach. The enlargement of the stomach causes other organs to be suppressed, and a reduction of blood flow. Symptoms include :

  • Distended abdomen

  • trying to be sick, but unsuccessfully

  • weakness

  • excessive dribbling

  • shortness of breath

  • feels cold

  • rapid heartbeat

  • collapsing


The exact cause is unknown, however there are certain scenarios which can increase risk such as:

  • rapid eating

  • eating one large meal daily

  • overeating

  • over drinking

  • exercise after eating

  • stress

  • trauma


If you suspect your dog has bloat, please contact your vet immediately. Your vet may x-ray your dogs abdomen to assess the stomach, if it is GDV then your vet will need to operate immediately to relieve the torsion of the stomach. This is a serious operation with risk and complications. To try and prevent these conditions think about :

  • Feeding smaller meals

  • Keep your dog at the correct weight for its size

  • avoid feeding your dog in a high bowl

  • limit exercise before and after meals

  • allow normal water consumption

tick flea life cycle poison