Every dog owner’s worst nightmare is that their pooch develops a health problem. If it goes unnoticed for just long enough to turn into something more serious. These illnesses can sometimes do even permanent damage to your furry friend, and of course, treatments can come at a higher price.
Signs Your Dog Might Be Infected with Parasites
If you’re a first-time dog owner and just got your adorable pup, you might be especially worried and confused about this topic.
Unfortunately, you are right to worry that your newly bought puppy already has some sort of parasitic infection. It’s the most likely when they come from a puppy mill. In fact, breeding in puppy mills counts as animal cruelty. It is truly shocking how many parasites a young puppy can carry (e.g., fleas, ticks, heartworms, rabies, etc…) when you bring them home. There are already organizations like Wuuff.dog, who go toe-to-toe with puppy mills. If you (or a friend) is out there looking for puppies, Wuuff.dog is your best bet.
And how can you be sure your four-legged buddy is infected by a nasty parasite? Well, there are two types of parasites, skin parasites, and intestinal parasites.
The former are easier to spot, but they also cause symptoms such as itchy -, red-, irritated skin, fever, loss of appetite and overall stiffness.
Intestinal parasites, however, are harder to detect. Diarrhea is a common sign, but other symptoms like poor growth, poor absorption of food or a swollen abdomen can go unnoticed until a later stage.
Common Parasites of the Dog:
You wouldn’t think, but a progressed flea infestation can be as devastating as to cause anemia and tapeworm infection. These hard-bodied insects suck on the blood of any pets, not just cats and it takes incredibly long to deal with them once your canine got infected. Fleas are skin parasites, that can be easily spotted on the skin. To keep these nasty fleas away from your pup, your best bet is an all year long flea prevention.
Ticks are yet another very common type of skin parasites that feed on your best friend’s blood. They typically live in wooded areas, so extra caution is recommended when you go off-road with your pup. They’re not just able to reproduce very fast, but can also infect them with Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fortunately, there are many over-the-counter options out there to prevent ticks from invading your pooch’s skin. Still, it’s important to thoroughly examine your dog’s skin every once in a while.
Demodex and Scabies are mites responsible for causing mange in mammals. Although they both reside in the skin, they are considered skin type parasites. Demodex and Scabies both cause skin irritation and hair loss.
Demodex or Demodectic Mange mites live in the hair follicles or oil glands. They can often be found in dogs in small numbers, but they cause no damage because the immune system keeps them in check. Health problems only occur in young puppies or in dogs with a weakened immune system. Then the Demodex start breeding and will cause irritation and hair loss.
In most cases, the treatment takes months and requires prescribed medications.
Scabies, or Sarcoptic Mange mites start to infest once they burrowed themselves underneath the skin. Although a scabies infection is difficult to notice, scabs on your dog’s skin, caused by the parasites, can be a telltale sign. Therefore, just like with ticks, it is recommended to thoroughly examine your dog’s skin every once in a while. Besides the scabs, scabies also cause skin irritation and hair loss and are more contagious, even to humans!
The treatment takes quite a long time and requires several different medications and medicated baths even in some cases.
Dirofilaria immitis, or more commonly known as heartworms are the most dangerous parasites that can infect your dog. They are a parasitic roundworm that enters the veins through mosquito bites, from where they start spreading. Once inside the dog, the larvae heartworms travel to your dog’s heart and lungs in the circulatory system. After settling in the heart and lungs, they start to grow and eat up the blood vessels found there. These thread-like worms can become as long as 40 cm, often causing congestive heart failure, which results in death. The most common signs of heartworm infection are cough, lethargy, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
To make sure your dog will never be infected, keep them on a monthly heartworm prevention treatment all year long. This will kill all the heartworm larvae in your dog before they could grow into adults.
There are two species of hookworms out there, but only one can possibly infect your canine, the Ancylostoma caninum. They prefer warm and moist temperature, so they are mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions. These parasites spread through excretion most of the time. They are incredibly dangerous to puppies, causing fatal blood loss. Unfortunately, there are no signs of hookworm infection, in puppies, you can look for poor growth and anemia.
The medical treatments only affect the hookworms residing in the intestine and not the migrating larvae. Therefore, the treatment has to be repeated to make sure that every single worm is exterminated. After a puppy is dewormed, the monthly parasite control medications, prescribed by your vet will also prevent any hookworm infections. Not letting your pup to get in touch or eat other pets’ wastes will also help to prevent an infection.
The two roundworm species found in dogs are the Toxocara Canis and the Toxascaris leonina. The former is known to cause more serious damage to dogs. Yet, both are only dangerous to puppies. Adult dogs’ immune system naturally prevents roundworms from evolving from the larvae state. The common signs of roundworm infection in puppies are poor growth, diarrhea, and swollen abdomen.
The treatment of roundworms is easy and effective. Newly developed medications and preventatives are even capable of eliminating roundworms in any stage of their life cycle.
Tapeworms infecting dogs are the Dipylidium caninum. These parasites are spread by fleas but can cause no serious health damage to dogs. In the case of young puppies, however, lack of growth, anemia and intestinal blockages are the regular symptoms.
Treatments can be given in the form of tablets or by injection. In both cases, the medication will dissolve any parasites in the intestinal system.
The only whipworm species infecting dogs is the Trichuris vulpis. In an egg state, these parasites can survive in any environment before getting in touch with the host. Infection is possible at any age of the dog and can cause a list of symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, bowel inflammation, dehydration, anemia, and weight loss.
Your veterinarian can prescribe several medications to end the infection. Yet, the best way to prevent it is to pick up your dog’s waste from the yard and don’t let your dog get in touch with other animals’ waste.
Parasite Screening and Prevention for Dogs
Generally speaking, to prevent any parasites from becoming a serious infection, you should take your furry buddy to the vet once a year for a thorough examination.
Since heartworms are the most dangerous for your pet, there is a test dedicated only to heartworm infection. There are many heartworm prevention treatments, that are administered regularly, such as Ivermectin, Milbemycin Oxime, Selamectin, and Moxidectin. These active ingredients can come in different products of different price ranges, so let your vet help you to decide which one is best for your pup.
In the case of hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms, the veterinarian will thoroughly examine your dog’s feces sample to find eggs in it. These are routine examinations but are highly recommended for the well-being of your dog.
Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs
With summer season right around the corner, flea and tick prevention will demand some extra attention.
One flea is enough to warrant concerns, as there are likely 50 more, where that one came from. Use a flea comb regularly to rid your pooch from any unwanted guest and make sure their environment is flea-free. Flea eggs can most commonly be found in carpets, hardwood floors, and your pet’s bedding.
On top of this, there are a great many products available on the market to prevent or treat flea infections. Prescribed medications tend to work better than their over-the-counter counterpart. So go see your veterinarian to find the best solution.
Ticks are although fewer in numbers than fleas but pose a bigger threat to your four-legged friend. Remove any ticks you find on your dog with a pair of blunt-nosed tweezers, then clean the wound with alcohol. Also, make sure your dog gets a Lyme disease vaccination regularly. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks and can cause serious kidney damage. In such cases, extended medicational treatment is required.
Fleas and ticks are the most common parasites in dogs, but it is our and our responsibility only to keep these nasty parasites as far away from our furry friends as possible.