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12/24/12

parasites in dogs

There are more than a dozen parasites that can infect your dog causing serious health problems, and in severe cases even death. Not recognizing the symptoms of a parasite infection may lead to illness, spread of disease, and general discomfort of your dog. Parasite infections can also shorten the life of your dog unnecessarily. Although some parasite infections can be life threatening each one is completely preventable. There is no reason any dog should have to suffer with worms, ticks, or fleas. Parasite infections left unchecked can also spread to humans causing various illnesses. Learn about some of the more common parasites that affect dogs so you can recognize the symptoms and provide preventative care.

HEART WORM 
Heart worms in dogs are found within the walls of the heart and also in some of the larger blood vessels of the body. Heart worms in dogs can cause heart failure, heart disease, liver failure, and kidney failure. Left untreated, heart worms can be fatal for your dog. Because symptoms may not always be present it is wise to have your dog tested yearly for heart worms. A simple in office blood test at the veterinarian can tell you if your dog has heart worms. Some of the symptoms a dog may have heart worms includes coughing, fatigue, labored breathing, and weight loss.

Any dog is at risk for contracting heart worms, but dogs that spend most of their time outdoors are more susceptible. Heart worms infections begin with a mosquito that bites an infected animal, and then bites your dog spreading the larvae. As the larvae matures to adult it uses the heart and blood vessels as home and can cause severe damage to the tissues including ripping, tearing, and in severe cases bursting of cells and muscles. Heart worms are easily treated with the use of medication which may be administered orally, topically, or by injection. All dogs should be treated year round for heart worm and testing should be a part of your dog's annual checkup.

ROUND WORM 
Roundworm is a parasitic worm found in the digestive tract of dogs. Infection is often spread by small rodents but can also be contracted by eating or drinking contaminated food and water. Roundworm can be diagnosed with a fecal test performed by your veterinarian. Roundworm infections may cause diarrhea, stomach pains, and changes in your dog's appetite. As with most parasitic infections treatment consists of an oral or topically applied medication. Often, one medication is enough to treat and prevent all kinds of parasitic infections. Symptoms of roundworm infection in dogs may include passing of eggs or dead worms in feces, and anal irritation.

HOOK WORM 
Hookworms are especially dangerous to dogs because they have sharp, teeth like grippers that allow them to latch onto the walls of the intestines. Hookworms are usually found in the small intestine and may even burrow through the walls causing further internal damage to your dog. Like most parasitic worms, hookworms feed on a dog's blood and can cause anemia. Infection in dogs may be caused by consuming contaminated food or drink and contact with other dog's fecal matter. Eggs may be passed in the feces and can latch onto other dogs. Once a hookworm latches on it burrows through the skin and tissues until it reaches the intestines, where it attaches itself to the soft tissue of the walls to feed on blood.

Hookworms can cause severe anemia but are easily treated with medications. Preventative care should include a monthly regiment of oral or topical medications, and a once yearly complete physical. As with any other parasite, treatment should be year round. Symptoms of hookworm infection in dogs are similar to other parasite infections. Hookworm eggs can be passed with feces and in severe cases you may be able to see them on the fur around the anus or on the underside of the tail.

WHIP WORM 
Unlike most parasitic worms, the whip worm is generally found in the large intestine. Tran mission occurs in the same way as any other parasite and is equally as dangerous to your dog's health. Instead of attaching itself to the intestinal walls the whip worm uses it's tail like a propeller and burrows into the walls of the intestine. This can be especially uncomfortable and even painful for a dog. Whip worms also feed on blood and eggs may be passed with feces. Whip worms can be treated with medication very easily and it is recommended to follow a monthly treatment schedule to avoid infections.

TAPE WORM 
Tapeworms are very similar to hookworms but they differ in body shape and size. Tapeworms have a flat, segmented body with a distinct head. Like hookworms tapeworms attach themselves to the walls of the intestines with teeth like grippers. Tapeworms are especially dangerous to dogs because they do not only feed on blood but they also "steal" vital nutrients through absorption. Tapeworms in dogs can cause serious digestive problems and possibly cause blockages. Tapeworms have both sexual organs and once attached to the intestines of a dog continue to reproduce sections and grow. Sometimes old sections dry up and pass through feces. Dried up sections look like grains of rice and may be seen in the feces or on the fur.

Of all the internal parasites, the tapeworm can cause significant damage because it robs your dog of vital nutrients. Tapeworms are most often spread by fleas. Symptoms of tapeworm infection in dogs may include abdominal bloating or swelling, increased appetite, and lethargy. Treatment is just about the same as for any other intestinal parasite. Your veterinarian should test yearly for tapeworms and other internal parasites. As with most infections, dogs that spend more time outside are more likely to become infected.

FLEAS AND TICKS 
Fleas and ticks can spread all kinds of diseases and infection. Both act similarly by biting and feeding on a dog's blood. Unlike fleas ticks bite and latch on to dogs skin usually near the ears, neck, face, head, stomach, and on the legs. It is not unusual to find a tick or several ticks on a dog, especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors unsupervised. Fleas and ticks can be dangerous to both humans and dogs spreading disease. Fleas can be especially hard to detect because most of the time you cannot see them. Symptoms of a fleas or ticks may include scratching and biting skin, a visible flea or tick, or irritated skin.

Regular bathing and grooming will keep infestations down. When brushing or combing your dog shake out the comb onto a white paper towel. If black spots appear and turn red when water is added you know your dog has fleas. When grooming your dog, check areas where ticks may latch on. It's easier for ticks to attach themselves to parts of the dog's body where there is thin or no hair. Check around the neck, in the folds of the legs, on the stomach, and around the ears. Ticks should be removed by a professional veterinarian. If a tick is not removed properly the head may remain under the skin and can cause an infection or abscess.

One hundred percent of parasite infections can be prevented in dogs with a regular treatment plan. Your veterinarian will be able to assist you with diagnosis, treatment, and medications. Some parasites can be life threatening so it is imperative as a dog owner to take the proper precautions. Always supervise your dog when outdoors to make sure they are not eating contaminated foods, drinking dirty water, or rolling around in the woods and grass. Regularly bathe and brush your dog's coat to minimize the spread of parasites. Because some diseases can pass from dog to human you should see the vet at least once a year, and up to three times a year with older dogs.
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