The health of your pooch couldn’t be more important; after all, a healthy pooch is a happy pooch. But your dog’s health is not just about making sure they eat a balanced diet and get plenty of exercise. It is also about making sure that they are also free from parasites. While it is common for your dog to be infected by internal and external parasites at some point in their life, recognizing and monitoring the infection is still essential to their health. Parasites can affect your dog in different ways ranging from a simple contamination to a life-threatening disease.
Here are examples of common parasites in dogs, how to identify them, and deal with the problem:
Hookworms are similar to roundworms and tapeworms. They are parasites found in the intestines of your dogs. A hookworm attaches itself to the lining of your dog’s intestines and lives by sucking on his blood. It lays eggs in the dog’s intestines and passes through your dog’s feces and into the environment.
Hookworms are dangerous because they cause internal blood loss. They can seriously threaten your dog’s life, especially puppies that may require blood transfusions to survive. Symptoms of hookworm infestation include weight loss and diarrhea.
You can prevent hookworm infestation by keeping your dog’s environment clean to prevent them from coming into contact with the larva. Dogs should also get de-worming medication at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age. Your dogs and puppies should also be regularly examined for hookworm infestation by your veterinarian.
Heartworms are some of the most damaging parasites to dogs. Luckily, they are very treatable. This parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes and once mature, they live in the heart and major blood vessels in the lungs and can measure over a foot in length. This parasite can affect blood flow throughout the body and damage different organs of your dog including their liver, kidneys and lungs. Heartworms are common in dogs throughout the United States.
Like hookworms, heartworms can be prevented with medication. Prevention treatment in puppies usually starts at around 6 or 8 weeks of age. You should also ask your veterinarian for annual blood tests to rule out heartworms.
Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are perhaps the most common external parasites in dogs. Fleas are usually a problem during warm months and are inactive during the winter season. The most common symptom for infestation is scratching and chewing which can lead to bald patches and irritated skin.
Ticks are more dangerous in dogs because they can cause anemia. There are also certain tick species that can cause paralysis in some dogs. Aside from this, ticks carry Lyme disease which can cause arthritis and swelling of the joints.
You can remove ticks and fleas from your dog by using tools to pull them off their coat. You can also prevent infestation by making sure that their environment is clean and using preventative medications or collars. The carpet and outdoor area can also be sprayed with insecticide by a trained pest control expert. Lastly, good grooming can protect dogs from fleas and ticks and a high quality dog shampoo can help get rid of these pesky pests and alleviate symptoms in your dog. Refrain from using shampoo made for humans because it contains different pH levels and can contain harsher ingredients that can irritate your dog’s skin.
Mange or canine demodicosis is caused by the parasitic mite. Mites live in the hair follicles or oil glands of your dog and cause hair loss due to itching and mild irritation. Mange usually starts in the muzzle and head then progressing towards the rear. Dogs that develop mange usually mean that another medical condition is suppressing their immune system.
A healthy diet and clean environment can reduce the risk of your dog contracting mange. Healthy dogs can usually handle the parasite without a problem. If symptoms persist, consult your veterinarian for mange treatment options.
Giardia is a single-celled parasite that lives in your dog’s intestines. It usually infects older dogs but can infect puppies too. Dogs come into contact with the parasite by drinking contaminated water or ingesting other substances that have been polluted by feces. The infestation is signaled by onset diarrhea and prolonged exposure to the parasite can result in weight loss, poor condition and sometimes death.
Usually, the best way to prevent Giardia infestation is to clean up your dog’s feces immediately and dispose of it properly as well as preventing your pet from drinking unknown sources of drinking water. It is important to ensure that your dog does not drink water from unknown water sources or communal bowls like the ones offered in pet-friendly places (usually stores and restaurants). Because these bowls are available to any dog that comes by, they become the prime for transmitting ground for Giardia. So, make sure you always have clean water to drink for Fido and keep a small bawl available at any time.
Ear mites are microscopic parasites that live in the ear canal of your dog. Ear mites are contagious and can travel from ear to ear between dogs that are in close contact. Infestation causes a coffee ground-like earwax that causes the dogs to have itchy irritated ears. Dogs that have ear mites often scratch at their ears that result in a red or inflamed ear area. Always check your dogs for ear mite infestation.
Ear mites are common in puppies and are transferred by being in close contact with other infected dogs. Because they are contagious, all dogs and cats at home should be checked and treated for ear mites by your veterinarian.
Whipworms are another common parasite in dogs. They live inside the cecum which is the area inside your dog where the small and large intestines meet. A severe whipworm infestation causes bloody diarrhea in your dog. It can be fatal if left untreated.
Whipworms are difficult to diagnose compared to other intestinal parasites. Prevent an infestation by keeping your dog’s environment clean by picking up their feces immediately afterward. You should also ask your veterinarian to check for whipworm infestation annually with a properly conducted fecal examination. Your veterinarian can also prescribe products that can control whipworm infestation.
Parasites are very common in dogs and they can get infected at least once during their lifespan. As dog owners it is your responsibility to maintain a clean and safe environment for them to live in. This will prevent most parasites from attacking your dog. An annual visit to the vet for a thorough checkup can also prevent most problems before they get out of hand.
Anna Smith resides in beautiful Santa Monica, CA, where she works as a Pet Nutrition Expert in a leading retail pet store. She is responsible for nutritional strategies for different breeds and development of new products on the market in compliance with Association of American Feed Control Officials. Anna’s passions are education about proven methods and best practices in the industry and her dog Max, who is always well-fed. She also helps curate contents for DogsAholic.com