You Should Know About Dog Parasites

Parasites in Dogs That You Should Know

Many pets will suffer from parasites such as fleas, ticks, or roundworms at some time in their life. While fleas and ticks are often simple to notice and identify in dogs, this is not always the case, and internal parasites can be present in your dog without your knowledge. These parasites may be exceedingly unpleasant to pets and can also cause major health issues or even disease transmission. Many parasites are now much simpler to treat, manage, and avoid thanks to modern medicine.

Some parasites are also zoonotic, which means they may be passed from one animal to another. Every dog owner should be aware of common parasites and how to avoid them from creating major health issues in both their four-legged and two-legged family members.

What Are Parasites in Dogs?

 The center for disease control defines a parasite as “an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.” 

There are two main categories of parasites in dogs that pet parents should be aware of: internal parasites and external parasites.

Internal parasites like hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms reside inside an animal's body, can be transmitted in a variety of ways, and can harm a variety of organs. Fleas and ticks are external parasites that dwell on the host's body and cause an infestation.

Symptoms of Parasites in Dogs

Parasite symptoms vary based on the parasite, where it lives, and the degree of the infestation. The majority of intestinal parasites do not cause symptoms until the infestation has progressed to a severe level. Parasite infestations can cause symptoms ranging from mild discomfort and occasional loose stool to more serious problems like anemia, skin disease, secondary infections, difficulty breathing, and malnutrition, which is why it's critical to prevent infestations and treat them quickly if they do occur.

Preventive treatment and frequent fecal examinations can help discover an infestation early on. Your veterinarian can identify intestinal parasites by searching for minute eggs or spores in your pet's feces during a fecal examination.

External Parasite Symptoms

  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive chewing
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Hair loss
  • Crusting and discoloration of skin 
  • Dry coat
  • Scaly appearance to fur
  • Large amounts of black debris in ears 
  • Fleas or flea dirt
  • Restless behavior 

Internal Parasite Symptoms

  • Diarrhea, with or without or mucous
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Distended abdomen (pot-bellied appearance) 
  • Decreased activity
  • Scooting 
  • Worms or segments (tapeworms) visible in the feces
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing

How Do Dogs Get Parasites?

Dogs can catch parasites in a variety of ways. Fleas are usually introduced into the house by other diseased animals, but they can also leap through doors and windows and be carried in on a person's trouser legs. Ticks are picked up while walking through shrubs and tall grass. When an animal ingests the eggs or spores in contaminated soil, water, or food, intestinal parasites are frequently transmitted. Puppies can get a parasite from their moms while still in the womb or while feeding. Dogs can develop tapeworms if they consume an infected flea. Heartworm is spread by a mosquito that has been infected.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Parasites in Dogs 

If you believe your dog is suffering from an internal parasite, the first step is to have your veterinarian diagnose the parasite. There is no single drug that can cure and prevent all GI parasites, but your veterinarian can determine the best effective treatment for your dog after the parasite has been identified. In most situations, fecal testing can reveal GI parasites, but it can't always, which is why some veterinarians prescribe deworming (the administration of medicine to treat and manage infections) even if the fecal test doesn't confirm the presence of parasites. To identify heartworm, a blood test is required.

In severe cases of internal and external parasites, dehydration, anemia and secondary infections can occur and your veterinarian will treat as needed along with medication to kill the parasites.

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    Parasites in Dogs That You Should Know

    Fleas may make life difficult for your pet. Fleas go through various phases in their life cycle, from eggs through larvae, pupae, and eventually reproducing, blood-sucking adults.

    Flea allergic dermatitis, which causes itching and skin infections, can be caused by fleas. Tapeworm eggs are carried by fleas, and your dog might get infected with tapeworm after swallowing a flea. Anemia can be caused by a big flea infestation. Flea bites in two-legged family members are conceivable, even though dog and cat fleas do not favour people.

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    Ticks may attach themselves to both people and dogs. While you may wear protective clothes when visiting tick-infested regions, your dog is nonetheless vulnerable. Tick detection and removal should begin as soon as possible since ticks require time to transmit tick-borne illnesses to their hosts. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, and are all diseases carried by ticks to dogs. Tick paralysis, caused by certain tick species, causes a dog to become paralyzed, generally starting at the hind end and progressing up to the head. This can be dangerous if the muscles that govern breathing become paralyzed, but as long as the tick is located and removed, the paralysis will go away.

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    Ear mites are tiny mites that infect and reproduce in dogs' ears, causing thick black dirt and pain. Ear mites are extremely infectious, and animals can become infected by coming into direct touch with another infected animal.

    Head shaking, ear itching, and crusty or waxy discharge that looks like coffee grounds are all possible symptoms. With an inspection and a microscope analysis of a sample of ear detritus, your veterinarian can detect ear mites. Treatment for ear mites may involve one or several treatments. Humans are not infected by ear mites.

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    Hookworms are tiny, thin worms with a length of less than one inch. In dogs, these intestinal parasites are frequent. Hookworms infect dogs in three different species. Some can migrate through the skin and damage people.

    Hookworms are transmitted to dogs by consuming larvae picked up from the environment, other infected animals such as cockroaches, and, in pups, via the mother's milk. Diarrhea, loss of appetite, anemia, weight loss, and failure to gain weight are some of the symptoms.

    Hookworm can be detected in the feces by a veterinarian. Deworming drugs must be administered regularly in order to eradicate the larvae as they grow. Deworming on a regular basis can help avoid recurrence.

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  • 05 of 08

    Whipworms (Trichuris) are intestinal parasites that are quite prevalent in dogs and infrequently observed in cats. The front end of these little worms is thin, whip-like, while the back end is thicker. They feed on blood and adhere themselves to the walls of the big intestine.

    Whipworm eggs are picked up by dogs in the environment via faeces. There are no indications of a mild infection. Weight loss, diarrhea, and anemia are all symptoms of a more serious illness. During a stool inspection, a veterinarian can spot the eggs using a microscope.

    Because whipworms are resistant to several common dewormers, a separate drug is frequently employed. Because worm eggs take weeks to become infectious, the greatest preventative is to keep the area free of excrement.

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    Roundworms, such as Toxocara Canis and Toxascara leonina, infect dogs' intestines. They absorb nutrients from the dog's diet, resulting in less nutrients being accessible to the dog. Infection can result from consuming eggs released in faeces, larvae transferred during pregnancy, or milk from the mother.

    Vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, and a pot belly are among symptoms that a dog may exhibit. Roundworms can be detected in the feces by a veterinarian. Roundworms can be cleared using deworming medicine and a variety of therapies as they grow. To avoid reinfection, a regular deworming regimen is required.

    Roundworms can be transmitted to humans. They cause inflammation and can migrate to various tissues and organs.

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    Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that are flat and ribbon-like. Fortunately, they seldom cause major illness. The most frequent species for dogs is Dipylidium caninum, although there are others. They are mainly spread by flea bites, although some species can also be spread by eating raw meat.

    Tapeworms can irritate the area around the anus owing to the worm's segments shedding. A puppy may scoot about on the floor or lick its surroundings. In severe circumstances, an infestation can lead to inadequate nutrition for the dog or even an intestinal obstruction.

    A stool examination and inspection of the hair surrounding the anus can help a veterinarian diagnose tapeworms. To remove the illness, medication is required, as well as effective flea treatment and preventing the dog from consuming dead prey.

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    A big roundworm parasite that dwells mostly in the blood arteries of the lungs and the heart causes heartworm illness. Mosquitoes carry the disease. Heartworm is more common in the southern states, however it may be found in any state.

    During your dog's annual check-up, your veterinarian will most likely test for heartworm. A dog with heartworm infection may exhibit no signs at first, but it can be lethal if the infection spreads. Coughing (including coughing up blood), exhaustion from exertion, fainting, and extreme weight loss can all occur in dogs.

    Once a dog has been infected with heartworm, the parasite must be killed with numerous injections of treatment over several months. To avoid serious consequences from the dying worms, the dog will need to be completely restrained during the treatment period.

    Heartworm illness is fortunately preventable. When taken on a monthly basis, a variety of established, safe preventions are used to prevent heartworms and many intestinal parasites.

    When a mosquito bites an infected dog, the parasite can generate larvae within the insect, which can be transferred to humans in rare cases. The parasite most commonly causes lung lesions in humans. Preventing sickness in your dogs can also help you stay safe.

How to Prevent Parasites in Dogs

  • Annual veterinary visits: Preventive care and regular fecal exams are helpful to catch the infestation in its early stages.
  • Keep your pet on flea/tick/ and heartworm prevention year-round: Ask your veterinarian which parasites are a problem in your area.  There are parts of the country where certain internal parasites are less of a concern and others where year-round prevention is imperative. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what to watch for according to your geographic location, how these parasites can be transmitted to your pet and prescribe the most appropriate preventive products.
  • Clean up after your dog: Pick up your dog’s feces promptly to reduce the risk of environmental contamination. Protect hands while cleaning up the feces and wash hands afterwards.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.