They say a home is not a home without a pet and if you’re the owner of one, you know that your little friend becomes a family member. Therefore, just like any other member of your family, your pet needs the utmost attention as far as health is concerned.
In case you have a dog you want to keep free of parasites and any other health issue, it is extremely important to monitor your four-legged friend for any change that may occur in his/her behavior and appetite and to visit the veterinarian on a regular basis.
One of the most common health issues when it comes to dogs is the one caused by parasites, and that’s what we focus on today. Since there are many different parasites that can get hold of your furry friend and trigger all sorts of unpleasant symptoms, it is mandatory to know how to identify the presence of such intruders.
Internal parasites – common worms and symptoms of infestation
Just like humans, dogs can be affected by parasites both internally and externally. While there are different ways to prevent that from happening, as far as the most common parasites are concerned, the chances of getting them are still high given a dog’s lifestyle.
The most frequent internal parasites a dog can have include roundworms, lungworms, heartworms, and whipworms. Up to 30% of dogs and 70% of puppies get roundworms such as Toxocara canis, that live in the dog’s intestine. Although many dogs don’t show any sign of infestation, when symptoms do occur, they include vomiting, diarrhea, potbelly, and even pneumonia.
Hookworms are parasites that also live in the dog’s digestive system and can cause internal blood loss which can further lead to bloody diarrhea and anemia. The same symptoms are caused by another intestinal parasite known as the whipworm.
While the worms mentioned above live in the intestine of the dog and can easily get into your pet’s system through contaminated soil, the so-called heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Once these worms infest your dog, they will live in the large blood vessels of the lungs and heart and affect the blood flow.
Such worms lead to heart and lung problems that start with shortness of breath, tiredness, and coughing. Untreated, the infestation can be fatal. Similar symptoms are also caused by lungworms that can get into your dog’s system if he/she swallows their larvae left by infested slugs and snails on the ground, grass, and other surfaces.
Common external parasites
While identifying internal parasites is a bit more complicated as symptoms may appear only in the later stages of infestation, things are simpler with the most common external parasites. Fleas and ticks are often a cause of health issues as they are a constant problem given the fact that they can thrive throughout the year in the appropriate conditions.
This is the reason why some dog flea treatments and flea and tick medicines for dogs may not work sometimes. The constant emergence of adult fleas in the infested environments and the many indoor and outdoor sources of flea eggs make them a regular problem. The symptoms caused by fleas are quite obvious and they include scratching, intense itching, skin thickening, and hair loss.
Similar to fleas, ticks can trigger many unpleasant symptoms and can easily affect a dog. They pierce the skin and suck the blood, which can lead to irritation, anemia, and abscesses. The problem is that some ticks are dangerous because they can transmit infectious diseases. The tick-borne diseases you should know about include babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Lyme disease.
How to prevent and/or treat internal parasites
The best way to avoid health issues is to prevent them. Although it can be really difficult to keep your dog away from parasites as the ones mentioned above, there are some steps you can take to ensure a more sanitary environment for your dog.
As far as intestinal parasites are concerned, it is almost impossible to stop your dog from licking areas such as contaminated soils. However, you can use various pesticides (as long as they’re safe for pets and humans) to kill such parasites and their eggs in the area where your dog plays. Also, strengthening your dog’s immune system is a full-time commitment. A stronger immunity will help the dog cope with such intruders. This primarily means a balanced diet and an active life.
Even so, there still is a great chance for parasites to develop. That’s why keeping an eye on your dog’s behavior and any changes in his/her appetite is of paramount importance. Any sign should send you two to the veterinarian as soon as possible. The earlier, the better. Later stages of infestation can lead to serious health issues and some of them even to death.
How to rid of external parasites
The market overflows with all sorts of tick sprays and flea killers for dogs of all breeds. Using only some popular tick shampoos for dogs won’t do it, though. To really eliminate fleas and ticks, you need to disrupt their lifecycle and that requires you to take care not only of your dog’s skin and coat but of all the surfaces where flea eggs are present.
Therefore, you need to do get some flea carpet powders and flea spray for houses. In case you also have a yard, you will need to go for flea yard treatments as well. By killing fleas from their early stages of life and wherever they and their eggs are present, you are more likely to actually eliminate them. However, in order to stop the flea problem from occurring, you need to turn such prevention activities into regular ones since re-infestation can happen quite easily.
Check any issue or concern with your veterinarian to make sure you get the right treatment. Sometimes, the use of certain over-the-counter products might interfere with your dog’s condition and even worsen the symptoms.