Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dog Health - Internal & External Parasites

If your dog has any of the following symptoms there’s a likely chance that they have a parasite. If you suspect that’s the case consult your veterinarian promptly and provide them with a stool sample so that a diagnosis and treatment can be administered.
·         Dull coat
·         Dull eyes
·         Coughing
·         Weakness
·         Vomiting
·         Diarrhea
·         Weight loss even with good appetite
·         Loss of appetite
·         Severe anemia


This type of worm enters the system when a dog eats intermediate host.  This is known as the immature form of the worm. Fleas ingest the eggs of tapeworm which in turn hatch into larvae within the flea. When the dog eats the infested flea the larvae mature into adults. These parasites can sometimes become several feet long and they feed on the digesting food within the dog. Extreme cases are fatal and dogs rarely exhibit signs.

The typical sign that your dog is infested is the appearance of short white worm segments in the stool, fur, or around the anus area. Resembling moving rice these are egg sacs that have broken off the adult worms. Sometimes your dog is irritated by their presence when they tickle or both the anus area which causes the dog to scoot. If you witness this behavior or suspect the presence of tapeworm make a vet appointment. A solution that will dissolve the worms is administered either orally or injected. After treatment the main concern is focusing on ridding the dog’s environment of fleas.


Quite common in both puppies and adult dogs this worm can pass through mother’s milk. Even if there’s no outward signs of an infestation the mother may have the larvae encysted inside her body. Puppies can become infested in utero when migrating larvae end up in the mother’s lungs during pregnancy. Though this can happen to any type of breeder it’s a largely seen in puppy mill dogs. These puppies require several treatments before they rid their bodies of the parasite.  

This parasite can be transmitted to both dogs and humans from the ground, animals, beetles, rodents, or even earthworms. Like the tapeworm they feed off their host’s digesting food. These parasites resemble strands of spaghetti and can reach lengths of up to 8 inches.

Puppies that are infested will eat voraciously at first. Quickly they then become weak from malnutrition and stop eating completely. The outward sign of a puppy with an acute or chronic case of these worms often has the ‘pot belly’ appearance. Diarrhea and vomiting are also symptoms. Luckily these parasites are typically easily treatable by a variety of medications available. Stool samples are taken to confirm the presence of worms and during the treatment. It’s highly recommended that dog owners are vigilant about their hygiene and keeping the environment clean especially during the treatment of these parasites.


The name is deceiving as this extremely contagious fungus isn’t a worm at all.  Easily spread through contact with infected hair or skin both dogs and their owners can become infested. Spores are dropped by the infected host and even just one spore can cause an infestation. This fungus feeds on dead hair cells and surface skin. The result is itching and typically dogs end up with raw looking bald patches. Sometimes the skin will be scaly and show no signs of rawness.

This parasite is very hard in its environment and can survive for years making it resistant to treatment. Systemic and topical therapies are needed during treatment. It’s vital to maintain extreme vigilance when it comes to hygiene and complete decontamination. This process needs to continue throughout treatment until the vet has declared the infestation gone. Kids, adults, and elderly with compromised immune systems are highly susceptible to contracting the fungus. However, if you don’t contract it during your dog’s diagnosis there’s a likely chance you won’t.


Dog owners should be aware there are four types of this blood sucking worm. Generally the most common and serious are found in the warmer climates. However, one species does prefer colder climates, including not only the upper United State but Canada as well.

Though this pest can cause issues for the dog’s owners too it can’t complete its life cycle within humans. As typical of worms it’s transmitted through infested feces. The best way to help prevent your dog or you from coming in contact with this parasite is cleaning up after their dog using pooper scoopers and disposable gloves.

Not only can this parasite cause skin irritation but can cause a severe iron deficiency…. It attaches to the intestines to feed and changes locations approximately six times a day. Since the dog loses blood during each reposition of the worm anemia becomes a risk.

Dark stool, pale skin coloration, weight loss, general weakness, swollen and red skin from the larvae penetrating usually in the feet area are all signs that your dog has an infestation of hookworms. A number of medications as well as preventatives are available.


The most common worm in North America attaches to the intestine. Spending its larvae stage in the small intestine it then migrates to the large intestine during its adult stage. This worm can live for months and sometimes even years inside a dog. The dog ingests the eggs or immature worms that are passed on through infested dog feces. Typically an upset tummy or small amount of diarrhea is the only symptom. If this is left untreated it can lead to anemia. Stool samples are needed to diagnose and even then it’s not entirely accurate. Strong deworming medications will be administered.

It’s important to rid your dog’s environment of all dog waste. Even though a dog may have been successfully treated it can still become infested again from the exposure of the eggs. The vicious cycle can continue over and over since these worms are able to survive outside even exposed to the elements for as long as five years.


This deadly parasite is transmitted to dogs via mosquito bites. The infected fly injects larvae into the dog’s skin during the bite that then enters the circulatory system and takes up residence in the blood vessels.

Sometimes it takes up to eight months after the bite for the worms to mature. At that time symptoms that there’s interference with heart functions appear as well as a chronic cough, fatigue, and weight loss. Ultimately heart failure is the cause of death.

The infestation of adult worms is treatable. However, the long process is expensive and can be risky. Dead worms within the heart can provoke a blood clot in the vessels or chambers. Heartworms can be fatal even after treatment so prevention is important.

Speak with your vet on the best age for your dog to start monthly prevention. In most cases it is recommended to continue the process throughout the year. It’s vital that the dog tests heartworm negative before preventative is used. If a dog is already infested it may become critically ill. Prevention isn’t a guarantee that your dog won’t contract the worms but it’s less likely than no preventative at all.


This fast producing parasite can become resistant to insecticides making it difficult get rid of. Scratching is typically the first sign that suggests there is an infestation. Some dogs have allergic reaction to the saliva in a flea bite. Fleas don’t have to be present to determine if your dog has them. Separate a patch of fur and examine the skin. Black flecks resembling pepper known as flea dirt are in fact excrement caused by the fleas.

Ridding the entire environment is key to curing the issue. Your vet can recommend or prescribe a preventive that would be best for your dog. For dogs that suffer allergies due to the bites the irritation and infection can be eased with medications.


These tiny pests burrow their mouths into their victim and feed off the blood. Diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever that can cause paralysis or the most common, Lyme disease can be the result of a bite. They come in many sizes and colors and often hard to detect.

For the most part a ‘pit bull’s short coat makes it easy to spot the tick. If you do spot one the safest and simplest removal tool is blunt tweezers. When dealing with a tick it’s a good idea to avoid handling it with your bare hands. Don’t use sharp tools, hot matches or nails to remove it.

Grasping the tick as close to the head as possible. Avoid using twisting or jerky motions pull with a steady motion to remove it and then flush. Don’t rupture or squeeze the body of the tick as this could potentially cause the release of infectious fluids. If the head remains it should eventually fall off on its own, apply some antiseptic to the area to help prevent any infection. Don’t apply lidocaine, gasoline, or petroleum jelly.

Ear Mites

As their name suggests they live within the dog’s ear. They reside in the canal and cause irritation to sensitive ears producing foul smelling dry rusty discharge. If your dog is constantly scratching, shaking its head, pawing at its ears or they show signs of inflammation or discharge they probably have these annoying visitors taking up residence in their ears. Your vet can help determine what course of action is needed to rid the mites from your dog’s ears and perhaps prevent them from coming back.

Mange Mites           

These tiny bugs can cause huge issues such as Sarcoptic mange. The skin becomes crusty, itchy, and often red bumps also form. Another type of mite causes Follicular mange. This type may or may not be itchy with noticeable small bare patches in the fur given a moth eaten look. Both types of mange need to be diagnosed and treated by your vet.

Disclaimer – In no way am I claiming to be an expert on these topics. These are only informational articles written to help dog owners. It’s recommended that you always do your own research and consult with your veterinarian for more detailed information. (01-24-13)

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