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December 20

Dog Health 11: Common Puppy Parasites

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Introduction

If you have recently adopted a puppy, do remember to take care of an important aspect of their health- the puppy parasites.

After all, the puppy stage is an extremely vulnerable stage for a dog.

Some of them are common puppy parasites that are easy to spot and identify by the dog's parents.

There are some internal parasites that can be causing internal discomfort to your dog that needs to be taken care of too.

The best resource that you can have for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of these common puppy parasites is your veterinarian.

Remember to mention any signs of illness during your routine visits to the vet. 

After all, almost all dogs get intestinal parasites at some point but some are more vulnerable than others. 

Here, we will take a quick overview of the common puppy parasites- both internal and external parasites on puppies.


How do puppies get parasites?

A parasite in a puppy can be acquired by him or her in various different ways. These are:

· Many times a mother dog passes down the roundworms to her puppies.

This parasitic infection starts even before the birth of the puppy.

It is because of this mode that a newborn puppy should have a complete vet checkup and undergo a complete deworming treatment for the same.


Parasites are also acquired through food. 

This especially happens through wild-caught animals or birds.


Parasites can also be contracted by the dog from the environment. 

For example- whipworms and hookworm larvae may live in the soil the puppy digs in.

There are several other infections that can infect your pet if the surrounding environment is unclean or unsanitary. 


Internal Dog Parasites


Heartworms

A heartworm can enter the bloodstream of a puppy through an infected mosquito bite.

This worm then matures and clogs the dog’s heart.

The slowing of blood causes the dog to develop a persistent cough along with reduced fatigue and increased fatigue after exercise. 

Though there are some typical signs, most of the dogs harboring this worm inside their body do not have any prior symptoms.

There are several screening tests available to detect it in a dog’s body.

 

Consult your vet to know more about them. 


Treatment for this parasite is expensive and in severe cases, even surgery may be needed. 

However, there are several heartworm preventive options available in the market including chewable, monthly topical, and daily tablets. You can consult your vet for the same.


Intestinal Dog Parasites


Hookworm

These are thin, small worms living inside the digestive system of the dog.

They are common intestinal parasites in puppies that can be picked up by the dog from their mother during nursing.

It can also happen when he or she comes in contact with its eggs in the soil during eating or routine self-cleaning. 

Hookworms in dogs get attached to the intestinal wall lining and feed on the dog’s blood.

Symptoms of hookworms in puppies include loss of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and failure in gaining weight.

Treatment includes repeated medications to eliminate the larvae of the worms as they mature. Regular deworming also helps.


Whipworms

These are common intestinal parasites found both in cats and dogs. With a whip-like front end, these are small worms that attach to the intestinal walls of the puppies and keep on feeding on their blood.

This parasite is often picked up by dogs through sniffing or licking contaminated food or feces.

They are difficult to detect in a stool sample but their telltale sign involves a mucous covering at the top of the stool.

The symptom of whipworms in puppies chiefly includes weight loss.

Since they are highly resistant to regular deworming medication, different other medications are used for the same.

 

Prevention involves a clean environment for dogs.


Roundworms

Roundworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites in puppies.

They live in the intestinal tract of the puppies and consume their food.

They look like one to three-inch-long spaghetti strips.

Puppies can get roundworms from either their mother’s uterus or during nursing. Infection can also occur from ingesting the eggs in the stool.

Symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, potbelly, and diarrhea.

There are a number of treatment medications available in the market to clear the roundworms in puppies.


Tapeworms

These are ribbon-like flat parasites that infect the intestines of the puppies.

However, they rarely cause any serious problems. 

They can be transmitted through the ingesting fleas or host meat containing tapeworms.

You will get to know if your puppy has it or not by looking at his stool that may contain segments of the worms.

Symptoms of this parasite in puppies include occasional diarrhea along with lost weight.

Treatment for tapeworms in puppies includes proper medication, good flea control as well as keeping your dog away from dead meat.


Giardia, Coccidia, and Spirochetes

These are non-worm parasites living in the intestines of the puppies.

What makes it dangerous is that infection to a dog may occur way before the symptoms actually occur.

Coccidiosis in puppies is more common than giardiasis in puppies as they may be acquired through their mother or litter mates.

Spirochetes parasites live in both the blood and intestines and are a major cause of several serious diseases.

 

Giardia is a pervasive protozoan and can come from infected water, soil, feces, animals, or food. 


In order to stave off these intestinal parasites in puppies, a diligent sanitation practice is needed along with a regular check-up.


Ringworm

This is a fungus rather than a worm that can infect puppies as well as adult dogs with a weak immune system.

They are easily transmitted to others. 

Symptoms include lesions of paws, head, ears, and forelimbs as well as circular bald spots that look red in the center.

Treatment of this worm depends on the severity of the infection. In mild cases, a medicated shampoo or ointment can kill the fungus whereas in severe cases, oral medication may be administered.     


External Dog Parasites


Fleas

These are tiny blood-sucking insects that can make the life of your canine friend miserable.

They can be seen as tiny sesame seeds scurrying around on the skin of your pet.

The favorite spots for fleas in dogs include the rump as well as the base of the ears.

 

Get immediate treatment for your dog as soon as you observe a flea infestation on your dog before their increase. 


This is because they can cause flea allergy dermatitis causing your dog to itch and several other skin infections. They are also the carriers of tapeworm eggs. A large flea infestation can also cause anemia in dogs.


Ticks

Ticks are commonly found external parasites on puppies that can cause a number of serious diseases in dogs. 

These include Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, and Lyme disease.

They can attach to both dogs as well as humans.

There are some tick species that can also cause paralysis causing your dog to become paralyzed starting from its back to the head.

 

However, this paralysis can go away if the ticks are found and removed. 


Given the seriousness of the diseases associated with the ticks, annual screening of your pets is a must by the vet.

Early detection and removal of these ticks is an important exercise as it takes time for the ticks to transmit any serious disease to their host.

There is a broad spectrum of antibiotics available in the market to prevent any tick-borne diseases.


Lice

These are microscopic parasites that live on the hair of the dog and feed off their blood.

They are different from human lice due to the fact that they come from different species

Human lice need human blood whereas dog lice need dog blood. 

A lice infestation in dogs can cause excessive itching to the dog making his or her life horrible.

Treatment involves medicated shampoos that are easily available in the market.


Mites

Though mites are very different from lice, they behave in a similar fashion.

They inhabit different body parts of the dogs causing mange problems in them.

The demodectic mange condition can cause hair loss near muzzle, eyes, forehead and forepaws.

Another condition called Scabies is also caused when these mites burrow deep into the skin of the dog.

This affects their legs, elbows, ears and face. Another mite causes a condition called ‘walking dandruff’ on the head, neck and back of the dog.

 

It can also cause itchy red spots on human skin. 


There are also ear mites that can infect the ears of the puppies causing discomfort to them.

They are highly contagious and are often picked up by the dogs by coming in direct contact with another infected animal.

Symptoms of mite infestation involve scratching, head shaking, and a waxy discharge from the ears.

Mites can be easily diagnosed by the vets through a close examination.


Repeated treatments may be required by the dogs to get rid of the same completely.


Prevention of common Puppy parasites


In order to keep your dog free from any kind of intestinal parasites in puppies as well as external parasites on puppies, it is important to take care of the three Ms.


Medicate

Take preventive measures and keep know-how of the problem parasites in your area by talking about it with your vet.

Different parts of the country have different problem parasites. 

Though there are several effective options available after your dog is infected, there is a wide availability of medications in the market that help in the prevention of these parasites.

Depending upon your geographic location, you need to know the duration of the preventive medications suitable for your dog.


Do ask your vet regarding his or her recommendations for the same.


Monitor

Always monitor the health condition of your vet with regular tests from your vet.

Fecal exams and preventive care play an important role in catching any kind of parasitic infestation early in their stages.

Also, keep an eye on any kind of changes in the behavior of your canine.

If you observe any difference in his or her appetite or water intake, it will alert you to any potential problems.


Maintain

Maintain a clean environment around your pet.

Clean up after your dog promptly to reduce any risk of environmental contamination.


Make sure that the bed, dishes, and coat of the dog is cleaned regularly. 


Keep him or her away from dead animals, garbage or other infected dogs and cats that may transmit potential parasites onto him.

Do ensure to protect your hands while cleaning up the feces and washing your hands afterward for any human infection.


Can Common puppy parasites be transferred to Humans?


Yes, they can. Several intestinal parasites in puppies pose a serious health risk to humans, especially the children.

Appropriate sanitation precautions should be taken to keep the children out of reach from the cat or dog feces.


Conclusion

Remember, symptoms of different parasites in the dogs vary according to the difference in the severity as well as the type of infestation.

There are several intestinal infestations that do not show any symptoms until they have become too severe.

In order to keep them in check, proper preventive care and routine vet visits are a must.

Though prevention is always the first choice, the vet will help you in destroying any pre-existing worms in your puppies and maintain their health.


Every puppy needs multiple rounds of medication for deworming as each round takes care of the adult worms and their remaining eggs and larvae.

It is important to take care of your puppy right from birth as there are several infestations that are carried from the mother to the puppy too.

Always consult your vet before administering any kind of medications to your pet as they know their health history and can give the best recommendations for the same.

This ensures that the dog gets the most effective and the safest treatment available for their condition.  


about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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