Dog Parasites

Dog parasites are the cause of many diseases in puppies and dogs.Long-Haired Holly

To decrease the possibility of dog health problems in your pack, you need to learn how to recognize the symptoms as well as how to prevent and treat various canine parasites.

Whether your pooch is long-haired like Holly (pictured here) or sports a shorter haircut, you can keep him parasite-free.

Parasites can affect your dog in a variety of ways, ranging from simple irritation to causing life-threatening conditions if left untreated.

Some parasites can even transmit diseases from dogs to people.

Definition of Parasite

What exactly is a parasite, anyway? Generally speaking, a parasite is an organism that gets its nourishment by feeding either on or within another animal.

These unwanted pests get on or inside a host, travel to a suitable spot, eat as much as they want to, and then they or their offspring leave the host to find another host.

There are many canine parasites that can infect your dog. Some of them live on the skin. Others live inside the body and can damage various organs. Let's take a look at these two main types of dog parasites -- external and internal.

Dog External Parasites

External parasites live on your dog's skin and hair. The most common ones are fleas and ticks.

Golden RetrieverThese little bloodsuckers are much more than just annoying.

They're also dangerous because they often carry diseases from one host animal to another.

They're often harder to find on dogs with longer hair (like this Golden Retriever).

But if you're careful when you check him out after a walk, you can usually find ticks, and sometimes fleas.

Lice and mites are tiny organisms that feed on your dog's skin and generally cause severe itching and hair loss, leading to open sores that may become infected.

Canine Internal Parasites

As the name suggests, internal parasites live inside your dog's body. If left untreated, they can cause great damage to your pet -- even death.

Young PuppiesThey're a common problem affecting almost all pets at some point in their lives.

In fact, many pets have intestinal worms either before birth or within the first few months of life.

Common internal parasites include hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms and heartworms.

In addition to worms, there are some common single cell protozoan parasites that can also cause problems, including coccidia, giardia and cryptosporidium.

Internal parasites have numerous ways of infecting your pet. Your veterinarian will generally check for any signs of parasites when you take your pooch in for a check-up. However, because there are so many different types of parasites, the signs and symptoms vary greatly.

Symptoms of Parasites In Dogs

Monitoring for any changes in behavior, appetite, or water consumption, along with regular visits to your veterinarian, will help you discover internal parasites that may have taken up residence inside your dog.

Make a special visit to your veterinarian if your dog has diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, increased scooting, a dull coat, or if you see worms under his tail, in his bedding, or in his stool.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Dog Parasites

Your vet will probably ask you to bring in a fresh stool sample to help him determine what type of internal parasite is present so that he can recommend the appropriate treatment.

Prompt treatment of internal parasites lessens your dog's discomfort, decreases the chances of intestinal damage, and reduces the possibility of your dog infecting humans or other animals.

Effective control of external parasites is available and often involves monthly medication with a prescription product. You may also need to use special shampoos and/or topical medications to soothe the injured skin while the parasites are eliminated.

Preventing Dog Parasites

The larger parasites on dogs are usually visible to the naked eye, so you can check for ticks and fleas during your frequent grooming sessions.

Dog Scooping PoopIf you can avoid walking your pup in areas with long grass, you'll bring fewer of the pests back home with you.

Reduce the chance of spreading canine intestinal parasites by always cleaning up your dog's poop as soon as possible, or training him to clean up after himself.

(I think this photo is a joke, but it's a great idea!)

You can also try to avoid areas where lots of other dogs have left their calling cards.

By following your veterinarian's recommendations and having your pet tested for parasites annually, you can protect your dog and your family from potentially harmful dog parasites all year long.

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