Dog Parasites: How to detect, prevent, and treat canine parasites

At any given time, your dog can be infected with any number of parasitic worms such as the half-inch-long hookworm or a tapeworm. If left untreated, dog parasites such as the tapeworm can reach up to a staggering three feet in length, and they can have as many as 90 segments. Other types of dog parasites include: roundworm, whipworm, and the heartworm. Hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms and whipworms live in the dog’s intestines. The heartworm lives in the dog’s heart and in the blood vessels that lead from the heart to the lungs. Round worms look like spaghetti and tapeworm segments look like grains of rice. If left untreated dog parasites can be fatal, but heartworm is one of the most severe canine parasites of them all. Detecting canine parasites is quite easy. All you have to do is to examine your dog’s feces. Canine parasites such as worms can also be found in your dog’s food, on or buried in your dog’s fur, around his anus, and around his paws (from scratching). It is also not uncommon to find them in his ears. Fleas are a major source of certain types of dog parasites, especially tapeworms. When a dog accidentally swallows an infected flea, worms can hatch in the dog’s intestines after the dog has accidentally swallowed a flea. Animal carcasses such as rodents and rabbits may also contain tapeworms, so keep your pets away from them at all costs. Dog parasites can also be contracted from other pet’s feces, which can be easily be found in parks, on pet runs, and in your own backyard. Whipworm and roundworm eggs can remain infectious for years, and hookworm larvae can multiply in the soil in and around a dog run, park or yard.

Symptoms of dog parasites include:

• Change in your dog's appetite • Coughing and hiccupping (due to heartworm) • Diarrhea • Distended abdomen in puppies • Dull coat • Inability to exercise • Vomiting • Weakness • Weight loss In the earliest stages of dog parasites infection, there are no abnormal signs. In mild cases, coughing is present. In moderate cases, you may notice coughing, exercise intolerance and abnormal lung sounds. In the most severe cases, all of the above symptoms above may be present. If the infection is severe enough, it can cause death. Luckily, dog parasites can be treated fairly easily through a number of conventional treatments such as adult heartworm therapy (adulticide therapy), melarsomine dihydrochloride (Immiticide®, Merial), post-adulticide complications, elimination of microfilariae and circulating microfilariae. Caring for a dog with parasites should be done only under the care of a vet.

How to prevent dog parasites

Have your dog screened for dog parasites twice per year. You should also screen your new puppy for puppy parasites as well. If your dog is considered high-risk for dog parasites, you should have him screened more than twice a year. High-risk dogs typically live in condensed urban areas and in a home with more than one pet. Show pets and hunting dogs are also considered high-risk. Preventative care in the form of monthly tablets, chewables, or topicals includes: Ivermectin, Macrocyclic Lactone (ML), Milbemycin, Moxidectin, and Selamectin. In addition to preventative measures, keep your dog clean and well groomed. Dispose of dog feces immediately and never leave it in piles around your yard, the park or on dog runs. If you notice any symptoms of dog parasites, contact your vet immediately.