Parasites in Dogs
Intestinal parasites - including roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms - can damage your dog's digestive tract and interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients. Roundworms are the most common internal parasite affecting dogs, however heartworms are the most serious and can lead to heart disease and early death. Heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites and live in the major blood vessels of the lungs, causing inflammation of the blood vessels.
Intestinal parasites are often passed through eggs in feces or directly to puppies in utero or through their mother's milk. A secondary host may also be involved. For example, tapeworm can be passed through flea larvae or in the tissue of infected prey such as mice.
Dogs can also be infected by protozoa such as coccidian or toxoplasmosis - microscopic parasites that live inside the cells of the digestive tract. Toxoplasmosis is transmitted through eggs or indirectly through infected cysts in raw meat (usually prey), but causes only mild digestive upset. Other internal parasites include flukes (flatworms that can infect the intestine or liver) and lungworms. External parasites include fleas, ticks, mange mites, and ear mites.
Intestinal parasites don't usually cause infection in people, however hookworm infections can lead to abdominal pain and enteritis in people with a weakened immune system. Roundworm larvae also have the potential to infect people and ingested larvae can invade sensitive organs such as the eye or a developing fetus.
Symptoms of Parasites in Dogs
- poor appetite
- weight loss
- unusual licking, chewing, biting or scratching
- general weakness and fatigue
- hair loss
- skin sores
- flaky skin
- swelling under the skin
Groom your dog regularly looking for parasites or the evidence they leave behind including skin sores, hair loss, and dry, flaky skin. To help prevent the disease, reduce your dog's exposure to blood sucking insects and examine their feces looking for traces of worms. It's also important to wash your hands well after exposure to feces, vomit or the body fluids. Herbal supplements can be used as a preventative measure or to expel parasites from your dog's body.