Common Canine Parasites

21June 2009

Common Canine Parasites

External Parasites:

Fleas are the most common type of external parasite for dogs.  Dogs suffering from a flea infestation can have blood loss and itchy skin.  A dog may even contract tapeworms if fleas are left untreated.  Many dogs and human get allergic reactions from fleas.  Symptoms can include hair loss and intense scratching.  Although fleas can be treated with over the counter products, please use caution as some of these products can be very toxic.  Ask you veterinarian for advice.

Ticks can cause anemia, paralysis, and Lyme disease.  If your dog has been in an area where ticks may be prevalent, always check you dog’s coat over at the end of the day.  Your veterinarian can prescribe your pet proper prevention, like Frontline.  These medications are usually applied once monthly.
To remove a tick from your dog can be somewhat challenging for some people.  There are many suggested ways to do so.  The easiest way I have found is to run a cotton ball in soap like dish or hand soap, apply the cotton to the area where the tick is attached.  The soap will make the tick release his grip and you can then remove and dispose of the insect.  I like to flush them down the toilet…just to be sure.

Mites come in many different types, and sometimes people recognize this parasite as “mange.”  Ear mites are very common.  If your dog appears to be shaking his head or scratching his ears a lot, take a look inside.  Ear mites will look as though the dog’s ears are extremely dirty and black, and may have an odor.  You must take your dog to your veterinarian to resolve this type of parasite problem.

Scabies is actually caused by a microscopic mite that burrows beneath the skin.  This condition spreads very rapidly and can also be spread to humans.  Symptoms include hair loss (especially near the face, ears, legs, and elbows), and intense itching.  Immediately seek veterinarian help if you suspect your dog has Scabies.

Internal Parasites:

Heartworm is caused by a bite from and infected mosquito.  The parasite enters the bloodstream and works its way into the heart, where it will mature.  Heartworms can reach lengths up to 12 inches.  Dogs infected with this parasite will suffer from coughing weight loss and will tire very easily.  This parasite can be fatal if not treated.  Monthly preventive pills are available through your veterinarian and are highly recommended.

Tapeworm, Hookworm, Roundworm
These internal parasites are most commonly found in puppies, but can occur in dogs of any age.  These worms may cause weight loss and diarrhea and will be detectable in the dog’s stool.  Talk to your veterinarian about prevention.