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Parasites are a common in dogs and puppies. Although most people know about external parasites like fleas and ticks, many do not realize that intestinal parasites can also cause significant health problems.
Intestinal parasites are parasites that live inside the host animal’s gastrointestinal tract. Examples include worms, like roundworms,whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and protozoa, such as, giardia and coccidia.
Dogs can contract intestinal parasites via different routes. Parasites are usually transmitted when an animal inadvertently ingests parasite eggs or spores in contaminated soil, water, feces or food. In the case of tapeworms, they can also be transmitted when a dog eats an infected flea. Puppies, on the other hand, usually get intestinal parasites from their mother. Transmission can occur in utero or from nursing.
Intestinal parasites can cause malnutrition, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and anemia.
While external parasites, like fleas and ticks, are easy to spot, intestinal parasites are rarely seen because they live inside your pet’s intestinal tract and pass microscopic eggs or spores in your pet’s stool that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Tapeworms are one exception--they shed segments that resemble sesame seeds or grains of rice and are typically seen in your pet’s stool or around their rectum. Roundworms are another exception since they may occasionally be seen in your pet’s vomit or stool. Nevertheless, intestinal parasites are difficult to spot and you should not rely on seeing them before taking your dog to the veterinarian.
Besides being hard to detect, many dogs infected with intestinal parasites are asymptomatic. Even symptomatic dogs may go undetected because their symptoms can be nonspecific. The most common signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites are:
Since dogs infected with intestinal parasites can exhibit no symptoms or subtle symptoms that can be easily overlooked; the best way to ensure that your dog is parasite-free is to take him to the veterinarian at least once a year for check-ups. Your veterinarian will examine your dog and perform fecal testing. A fecal examination allows your veterinarian to diagnose intestinal parasites by looking for microscopic eggs or spores in your pet’s stool.
How can you prevent intestinal parasites?
While the thought that your pet may have intestinal parasites may give you the heebie-jeebies, intestinal parasites are treatable and even easier to prevent. In fact, many people are already protecting their pets and family from intestinal parasites and don’t even know about it. Did you know that most monthly heartworm medications also contain a broad dewormer that protects your pets not only from heartworm disease but also from many intestinal parasites? If your dog is not already on monthly parasite preventatives, take him to your veterinarian to discuss how you can protect your pets and family from intestinal parasites.
Please note that puppies may pick up common parasites, such as Giardia, coccidia, roundworm etc. I do everything in my power to prevent and eliminate these parasites by putting dogs and pups on a strict de-worming program. However, mother dogs tend to be more vulnerable to parasites when they have puppies, and may pass them along to the pups. Depending on the life cycle of the particular parasite, it is possible that a few pups will go home with one. You must have your puppy checked by a vet within 72 hours of taking it home. Please make sure the vet checks for parasites.
To learn about fleas and ticks click here.