Parasites in dogs have been known to take on many different forms. However, all of these unwanted parasites have one thing in common; sooner or later they will begin to affect the health and comfort you your beloved canine companion. These unwanted parasites can cause a range of health issues and health risks leading from mild illness all the way to death if left untreated.
Below we will discuss some of the common parasites, both internal and external, that are found on dogs as well as how to treat and prevent them from appearing.
What is a parasite?
The Centers for Disease Control offers this definition in regard to what a parasite is:
“A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.”
Many dogs will become infected with a parasite at some point in their lives as 100 percent prevention is usually not possible. However, with some safety measures and precautions in place, you can ensure your dog remains both happy and healthy for years to come regardless of parasitic infection.
Internal Parasitic Infections In Dogs
These types of parasites are those that live inside the dog. They can be of different types, and they can be treated in specific ways depending on the type. Unfortunately, these are the ones that cause the greatest danger to the dog since it directly affects its body, and they are not so easy to detect. Since they are not visible to the naked eye, you would need a series of signals to know that your dog is suffering from a specific parasite.
Internal parasites generally manifest as worms when they are in the intestinal area. The most common types are strongyles, whipworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. They can also be housed elsewhere as the heartworm does.
Strongyle parasites: Intestinal strongyle or strongylid parasites are zoonotic. That is, they affect both animals and humans. They are transmitted in three ways: in lactation from the mother to the puppy, when larvae of this type penetrate the dog’s skin, and by self-infection. They are an intestinal parasite that lodges into the small intestine and takes approximately one week to develop in the body fully. Clinical signs are not easily detected since they develop an immune response in the case of adult dogs. However, in puppies, it can cause diarrhea. If the dog was infested through the skin, it might show lesions on the legs, such as pododermatitis.
Whipworms: Known in this way for their elongated, hooked shape, they lodge in the large and small intestines to feed on the dog’s blood, which becomes infected by ingesting eggs on contaminated surfaces. They have a development time of almost three months and are normally seen in adult dogs. However, their appearance in puppies is not ruled out. When the infection is severe, it can cause diarrheas with colic, blood, mucus in the stool, severe anemia, anorexia, and weight loss.
Roundworms: include roundworms or Toxocara canis, which mainly infest puppies and cause rapid death due to gastrointestinal obstruction or enteritis. This can happen even in the first two weeks of life. The puppy may suffer from abdominal discomfort and swelling in the area, diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, and normal growth may be stopped due to roundworms.
Tapeworms: Tapeworm parasites, also called tapeworms, are common in dogs and humans when raw meat is consumed since these parasites are found in cattle meat. They have a development period between a month and a half to two months, is located in the small intestine.
They do not affect the dog directly, only when the infection is severe causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating in the abdomen. When the dog is infested, it can expel part of the tapeworms through the feces or be exhibited in the anus of the patient.
Heartworm Dirofilaria: immitis, or heartworm disease, is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes and also mildly affects people. They are located in the pulmonary artery and the heart, generating heart failure in the animal, lung disease, and death if it is not treated in time. These parasites have a maturation period of six to nine months. You can prevent your dog from suffering from a heart work infection by using a heartworm preventive.
In the dog, frequent fatigue can be observed when performing physical activity or playing with other dogs. In addition, they may have a cough or weight loss if they have a heartworm infection.
External Parasitic Infections in dogs
Ticks and fleas are the most common external parasites in dogs. They feed on blood and are a torment for both dogs and humans. With the arrival of spring and the rise in temperatures, the risk factors of tick bites also increase since they inhabit grass and weeds. The worst thing is that ticks are annoying, but they are carriers of diseases like Lyme disease and babesiosis.
They are microscopic organisms, microscopic in size. These are of different types and produce diseases of greater or lesser severity that vary depending on the breed and age of the dog, whether it is a puppy or an adult. The most frequent and that have similar symptoms are the mites that produce demodectic and sarcoptic mange. This is located in the dog’s follicles. They produce redness in the affected area and generally moderate to intense itching depending on the degree. When they go to a generalized degree, the itching is intense.
Two other scabies are produced by the ear mite that affects the outer ear, inflaming it and generating much itching and darker wax. Finally, the dandruff disease is formed by mites that lodge in the layers of the skin, specifically where the keratin is located. Again, they can leave the skin red and itchy.
Ticks, lice, and fleas are parasites that can be detected. They vary in shapes and sizes. They are generally present in nature, so the dog can easily become infested, but it can also contact another dog. These parasites seek to feed on the dog by absorbing its blood, causing skin lesions, and causing constant itching. They can cause anemia, immune problems, clotting problems, loss of appetite and weight, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and arthritis. Fleas can also transmit the tapeworm parasite.
Ticks and Fleas; A deadly enemy
Ticks are known to spread and pass diseases to dogs. Oftentimes, this happens without the owner even knowing that the dog has been infected until much more severe symptoms start to appear. Below are some of the common diseases that are known to be spread from ticks to dogs.
- Lyme disease: Also known as borreliosis, is an infectious disease triggered by spirochete Borrelia burdogferi . It is transmitted by bites from parasites such as ticks, and when it reaches the blood, it spreads.
- Encephalitis: or tick meningoencephalitis (TBE), is a viral disease caused by the tick encephalitis virus (TBEV). It is transmitted through the bite of a tick. It is not a frequent disease and usually occurs only in animals with a weakened immune system.
- Babesiosis: Also known as canine malaria, is an infectious disease caused by single-celled parasites. It is transmitted through the bite of a tick, attacking the red blood cells.
- Anaplasmosis: it is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus anaplasma that are transmitted through the bite of a tick.
- Ehrlichiosis: is an infectious disease caused by the Ehrlichia canis bacteria. It is transmitted by brown ticks originating from European Mediterranean countries.
- Hepatozoonosis: It is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Hepatozoon canis. The disease is spread by eating a brown tick.
Fleas are also known for spreading unwanted diseases to your canine companion. Much like ticks, the diseases that fleas spread often go noticed until the dog begins to show signs of more severe symptoms. Below are some of the common diseases and health risks that fleas are known to spread.
- Anemia: A severe flea infestation can cause significant blood loss, which can lead to anemia in your dog.
- Allergic dermatitis: This is when your dog is allergic to the salivia found within a flea bite.
- Cestodes: Fleas can carry cestode eggs inside them. If this is the case and your dog has swallowed a flea, the eggs reach the intestine of your dog and develop into cestodes, that is, intestinal parasites. Therefore, you must completely deworm the dog.
Preventing Parasites in Dogs
When a dog is an adult, it depends a lot on its lifestyle and where it lives. If the dog is more in contact with nature, such as living in a field or lives in places where certain types of parasites are prevalent or regularly consumes cattle meat, internal and external deworming is important month by month or every two months.
In city dogs, you also have to see where you live, but usually, it can be dewormed in periods of three to four months. It also has a lot to do with the directions you take to the product and the vet. So it is important to do general check-ups to the dogs every six months and every time the dog shows something out of the ordinary.
Products For Parasitic Prevention In Dogs
There are different types of effective products for deworming, depending on what the animal suffers from. These can be for external use and internal use.
Among those for external use are pipettes. These are placed on the external part of the dog’s skin in small doses where unwanted parasites usually lodge without reaching the dog’s muzzle to prevent it from licking the product. Apply the pipette when the dog has a day without bathing, and bathe it the days after it has been applied for greater effectiveness.
Sprays are for direct application. However, not all dogs like expulsion due to the sudden effect it performs. Therefore, test your dog’s reactions with the sprays beforehand to see if it generates any discomfort and avoid stress or fear with the application, and choose to change to another type of product if necessary.
The necklaces are generally useful for their easy use and placement. However, it is not recommended for dogs with sensitive skin or that are not used to wearing a collar as they will be uncomfortable and can cause other problems for the dog, such as stress.
There are also always reliable deworming shampoos, which complement external deworming because they will not completely generate results by themselves. They must be accompanied by other products, internal or external, for greater effectiveness.
And finally, there are tweezers and combs. They are necessary because parasites such as ticks can be extracted. You can use the comb regularly to remove hair they tend to lose, and most dogs find it a relaxing activity once they get used to the touch.
It is essential to consult a specialist before you administer any medication to your pet. They will indicate the most recommended treatment and will tell you what the dewormer will accompany with a supplement, dietary change, or external deworming product.