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Parasite Prevention in Dogs: Your furry friend brings along more than just lots of hair and drool, they will also bring in their own set of canine parasites. Parasites in dogs take many forms, but they all have one thing in common: sooner or later their presence will almost always have an impact on your pet’s health or comfort. They can cause anything from mild irritation to serious illness. Some of the parasite can be passed to humans, especially young children and elderly.

According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention the definition of a parasite – “an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense if its host.”

Parasites live in three primary areas on your dog.

Internal

These kinds of parasites live in and travel through your dog’s blood stream

Heartworm – enter a dog’s bloodstream from the bite of an infected mosquito. The worms mature in the dog’s heart and clog it. Inflammation in the dog’s arterial wall disrupts blood flow, making the heart have to work harder. Some breeds are more susceptible to contracting heartworm. Be educated about your dog’s breed make sure you know your and talk to the vet to see if you live in a high risk area.

  • Prevention – Heartworm medication is a prescription through the vet, it is a once a month treatment via chewable tablet. Your dog must be tested for heartworm before you get a prescription for it to prevent it.

Parasite Prevention in Dogs:  Preventative with a small blond poodle

Intestinal

These parasites live in your dogs intestinal tract and exit via fecesm which is also how they can be passed to other pets in the household, and some to humans.

Hookworms – live inside a dog’s digestive system, and are acquired either by puppies from their mother (when nursing) or by adult dogs swallowing the parasite’s eggs, or having the hookworm burrow into the skin. Hookworm larvae live in soil, and can be ingested when the dog comes in contact via eating them or through routine self-cleaning. After attaching to the lining of the intestinal wall, the hookworm feeds on the dog’s blood. The resulting blood loss can have serious effects, especially on puppies.

  • Prevention – All puppies should be de-wormed as part of the vaccination process. Adult dogs don’t need boosters unless you see a re-occurrence of disease.

Roundworms – are an extremely common parasite, and again, puppies are most at risk. Roundworms have the appearance of white firm rounded strips of spaghetti, one to three inches long.

  • Prevention – All puppies should be de-wormed as part of the vaccination process. Adult dogs don’t need boosters unless you see a re-occurrence of disease.

Tapeworms – Fleas are the primary culprit in the contraction of the tapeworm.  The tape worm is a flea in its larvae stage, and is passed out the intestinal tract and onto the dog in the flea form

  • Prevention – protection against tapeworms is to the keep your dog treated for fleas and away from dead animals and garbage.

Whipworms – acquired by licking or sniffing contaminated ground. An adult whipworm is only about 1/3-inch long, and resembles a very small piece of thread. They live in the dog’s large intestine.

  • Prevention – protection against tapeworms is to the keep your dog treated for fleas and away from dead animals and garbage.

Coccidia, Giardia & Spirochetes – are invasive, non-worm parasites that live in a dog’s intestinal tract.

Coccidia – are single-celled and found more frequently in puppies, where they may acquire it through their litter mates or mother. Older dogs and cats may also be susceptible.

Spirochetes – can live in the bloodstream, as well as in the intestine, and can cause Lyme disease, syphilis, and other serious diseases.

Giardia – are pervasive protozoa.

  • Prevention – transmission of these parasites can come from infected soil, water, feces, food, other animals, and more. Diligent sanitation practices by keeping bowls clean, not let your dog drink from standing water or stagnant streams. Passes easily between multiple dogs in one area that share bowls, potty and bedding.

External

These are the parasites that live on your dog’s skin and fur.

Fleas – are tiny wingless insects that feed on mammals, including dogs. Fleabites make some dogs so miserable that they bite and scratch themselves raw. Other dogs do not seem to respond to fleabites with the same intensity. If you see evidence of fleas on your dog, it is essential to get rid of them as quickly as possible, before the population grows. You may be able to see the dark fleas, about the size of sesame seeds, scurrying around on the skin. Their favorite spots include the base of the ears and the rump. Look closely to sparsely haired places, like the groin, for telltale signs. A more accurate way to diagnose fleas, however, when live ones aren’t observed, is to part the fur in several places and look for tiny black specks about the size of poppy seeds. These specks are flea feces, composed of digested blood. If you’re not sure whether you’re looking at “flea dirt” or just plain dirt, place it on a damp piece of white tissue. After a minute or so, a small red spot or halo will become apparent if it’s flea feces, since the blood re-hydrates and diffuses into the tissue.

  • Prevention – fleas are the most common parasite dogs have. Fleas get worse when the weather is dry and warm.  The need your dog to lay their egg, as they feed of your dogs blood.  There are many fleas prevention products on the market from topical solutions to oral tabs.  Sometime these preventative medications prevent other parasite as well so you can get a lot of prevent in one dose, usually a monthly dose.  Different products use different methods of delivering the poison to the flea. The best way to get the best fleas product for your dog in your area is to consult your veterinarian.

Parasite Prevention in Dogs: Apply flea preventative to a corgi

Ticks

Ticks – can cause a number of serious illnesses, andincluding Lymes disease, Ehrlichiosid and Rocky Mountain Spotted Given the many ailments associated with ticks, annual screening by your vet for tick disease is mandatory.

  • Prevention – Treating your dog with a monthly flea and tick prevention that is recommend by your vet is the best way prevent infestation.

Ringworm – is actually a fungus, not a worm. Because of their still-developing immune system, puppies less than a year old are more susceptible to ringworm. Adult dogs who are malnourished or stressed, or whose immune system is diminished, are also at risk, and the ringworm fungus is easily transmitted. The infections shows up as lesions on the lesions on their head, ears, paws, and forelimbs. The lesions cause circular bald spots which sometimes look red in the center. In mild cases, a dog might suffer only a few broken hairs. In severe cases, the infection can spread over most of the dog’s body.

  • Prevention – make sure you dog’s bedding is dry and clean. Wash all leashes and collars that have gotten wet and make sure they are thoroughly dry before putting it back on your dog.  Keep your dog away from other dogs who have active lesions.

The 3 Ms are the best way to prevent unwanted parasite in your dog

  1. Medicate with preventives. The wide availability of extremely effective preventive medications helps ensure that your dogis not plagued with squirming, burrowing, or biting pests. Always ask your vet for their recommendations for the particular needs of your dog.
  2. Monitor your pet with annual screening tests from your veterinarian. You should also watch for changes in your dog. If they are behaving differently, or there are changes in appetite or how much water they are drinking, these may alert you to a potential problem.
  3. Maintain a clean environment for your dog. Make sure bedding, food and water dishes, coats, etc., are cleaned regularly. Keep them away from garbage, dead animals, and other dogs or cats who may be infected.


Alexa Diaz
Alexa Diaz

Alexa graduated from University of California, Davis with a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior in 2002. She also has a background at a veterinary technician. She is currently the head behaviorist at the K9 Training Institute. Her passion is helping pet owners understand the body language of their pet to strengthen the human-animal bond. Alexa enjoys spending time in nature with her husband and playing with her kitties. She says her proudest moment was graduating the first group of service dogs she trained for children with disabilities.



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