Most Common Parasites in Dogs

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Dogs are curious and outgoing by nature, but, if you are not careful, this can get your pet in trouble. Parasitic infections are quite common in dogs as they tend to pick up fleas and ticks when they venture outside, or intestinal worms from contaminated water, soil, food, and sometimes even feces. Some of these infections can be transferred from dogs to humans, so understanding how to identify, treat, and prevent such infections is important for both pet and owner.

The ten most common parasites that infect dogs are:

1. Giardia

It is a protozoan which infects the dog’s intestines. A dog can get infected by eating the parasite’s cysts.

Symptoms

Diarrhea, vomiting, or feces which emit a foul smell.

2. Hookworms

Hookworms are found in the small intestine. Common ways in which dogs get infected is contact with contaminated feces or soil, or eating hookworm eggs. Puppies might also get it from their mother, either in the womb or while nursing.

Symptoms

Diarrhea, appetite and weight loss, fatigue, or bloody stools.

3. Roundworms

Roundworms are also found in the gastrointestinal tract. Dogs get infected through their mother’s milk or by coming into contact with contaminated feces.

Symptoms

Visible worms in feces or vomit, diarrhea, stunted growth, or distended abdomen.

4. Whipworms

Whipworms infect the large intestine and are harder to detect. Unless the infection is severe, dogs usually do not display any symptoms.

Symptoms

Diarrhea, mucous discharge with stool, or weight loss.

5. Tapeworms

Tapeworms infect dogs when the latter eats fleas carrying tapeworm eggs. They can be detected from a stool sample when the worm discards the end segment of its tail.

Symptoms

Anal itching, weight loss with no reduction in appetite or vice-versa, dragging their rear end, etc.

Treatment for Parasites 1-5

The treatment for intestinal parasites is de-worming. Tapeworm is treated with a drug that’s either ingested or injected.

6. Heartworms

It is transmitted through a mosquito bite. The worms enter the bloodstream and make their home in the dog’s heart. They damage the arteries making the heart pump faster and harder to maintain blood flow.

Symptoms

Fatigue, low appetite, or a cough that doesn’t go away.

Treatment

Treatment includes periodic pills and topical medication. Surgical intervention may be required in some instances.

7. Ringworms

It is a fungal infection that typically infects puppies, and dogs with suppressed immune systems either on account of age or illness.

Symptoms

Ring-like lesions on the body.

Treatment

The fungal infection is treated with ointment or medicated shampoo. If the infection is severe, the dog’s fur might have to be shaved off. Oral medication may also be prescribed.

8. Fleas

Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of dogs. They can be found in and around the ears and the groin region.

Symptoms

Itching and scratching, loss of fur, red bumps, or flea dirt or feces.

Treatment

Prescription oral or topical medications are the best way to eliminate fleas. Flea powder, shampoos, and sprays can also be used.

9. Mites

Depending on the species, mites can be found in various places on a dog’s body. They cause a skin disease called mange.

Symptoms

Severe itching, scabs, loss of fur, or emaciation.

Treatment

It depends on the type of mite infecting the dog. Oral and topical medications, medicated baths, and clipping of fur is generally practiced.

10. Ticks

Ticks are vectors, and they carry diseases like Lyme disease, that can make your dog severely ill.

Symptoms

Fever, bumps and scabs, or an abnormal amount of head-shaking by the dog.

Treatment

Treatment for ticks include sprays and powders, topical applications, and medicated shampoos. For tick-borne illnesses, the vet will suggest a treatment protocol after the disease is diagnosed. Prevention is your best bet. So take your dog for periodic exams to ensure parasitic infections are caught early. Inspect your dog regularly for signs of flea, tick or mite infestation, and ensure prompt removal of dog feces to minimize the chances of contagion.

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