While you do everything you can to keep your dog healthy, from giving them plenty of exercise and feeding them a nutritious diet to signing up for our canine wellness plans, there are some problems that can be hard to avoid. Parasites are sneaky and small, and can find their way to your dog without you even noticing. While there are several preventative measures you can take to keep parasites away from your dog, we believe that all dog owners should be aware of the different types of parasites that can affect your dog.

At Paradise Point Animal Hospital in Phoenix, we can provide your pup with parasite prevention, ensuring that they remain healthy and happy. We offer canine wellness plans for puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs, allowing your furry friend to get the care they need no matter what stage of life they are in. While we can provide you with parasite prevention, we wanted to give you more information about common parasites that can affect your dog and their health. Read on to learn more and be sure to schedule an appointment today!

Fleas

Fleas are small, wingless insects that feed on mammals, which includes dogs. There are more than 2,500 different species of fleas, but the one that is most likely to affect your dog is the cat flea. Fleas can be hard to spot since they are so tiny, but there are many signs that your pup may have fleas.

Fleabites can cause irritation to your dog’s skin. While some dogs may not respond to fleabites, other dogs will bite and scratch themselves raw. If you notice that your dog is doing this, be sure to check them for fleas.

Fleas can cause allergy dermatitis, which causes your dog’s skin to itch and could lead to infections. They are also carriers of tapeworm eggs. If your dog eats a flea, they can become infested with tapeworm.

The problem with fleas, and a reason you want to find them and get rid of them as quickly as possible, is that they reproduce quickly and the infestation can grow rapidly. It is estimated that for every adult flea found on a dog, there are at least 100 immature ones. A large infestation of fleas can lead to anemia. Pale gums are a sign of anemia, so if you notice that your dog is scratching more than usual and has pale gums, be sure to check them for fleas.

Ticks

Ticks are nasty little ectoparasites that can and will attach themselves to dogs and humans. There are over 800 species of ticks worldwide, and they are larger than fleas, making them easier to spot on your dog. They are commonly found in wooded areas or in tall grass. Because ticks can be so harmful to your dog, it is important that you use tick prevention on your dog and check them for ticks after being outside.

Ticks can cause a variety of ailments in your dog. Similarly to fleas, ticks can consume enough of your dog’s blood to cause anemia, although this is rare. Certain female ticks can cause a rare paralysis in dogs due to a toxin that is produced while they are feeding. This can become fatal if the muscles that control your dog’s breathing are paralyzed. Luckily, the paralysis will go away once the tick is removed.

The biggest problem with ticks is that they can spread a variety of diseases to your dog. These diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, and ehrlichiosis.

If you find a tick on your dog, it is important that you remove it immediately. While there are many ways to do this, the most important thing to remember is that you want to remove the head. Ticks burrow their head in the skin and the body can become detached if you try to remove the tick by the body. If the head is left behind, it could abscess and cause infection. Any contact with the tick’s blood could also potentially transmit disease to you or your dog.

There are specific tools that are designed to safely and carefully remove ticks from the skin, however, you can use tweezers. Make sure you get as close to your pup’s skin as possible and grab the tick by the head. Slowly and steadily pull the tick out in a straight motion. For peace of mind, keep the tick in a jar and bring it to your vet to have it tested for any disease that may have transferred to your dog.

Since ticks can so negatively impact your dog’s health, tick prevention is a great idea, especially if you live in an area where ticks are common.

Heartworm

Heartworm is transmitted into a dog’s bloodstream by an infected mosquito. The worms live in the blood vessels of the lungs and in the heart, maturing in the dog’s heart and clogging it. Blood flow is disrupted by inflammation in the arterial wall, making the heart work harder.

At first, your dog may not show any symptoms of heartworm, but as it progresses, symptoms will start appearing. If the heartworm progresses too much, it can be fatal. As the blood flow slows, a dog will develop a mild and persistent cough. Some of the other symptoms include fatigue after mild exercise, coughing up blood, a reduced appetite, and severe weight loss.

Vets usually do heartworm checks during your dog’s routine check-ups, making it easy to diagnose them early. While the tests are sensitive enough to detect a single worm, they can only detect the presence of an adult worm, which can make it tricky.

Treatment for heartworm is expensive and hard on dogs. Treatment involves injection medication given over the course of several months. During this time, a dog being treated for heartworm will need to remain in a constant state of rest in order to prevent dangerous complications for the dying parasite. This means that the dog should not be walked or engaged in play.

Luckily, preventing heartworm is simple! There are many safe and effective heartworm preventions that you can pick from to keep your dog safe and healthy. While the prevention may seem pricey, it is much more affordable than treating heartworm, and causes a lot less stress on you and your pup.

Intestinal Parasites

There are many different types of intestinal parasites that can infect your dog. These include hookworms, ringworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and coccidia, giardia, and spirochetes.

Hookworms live inside a dog’s digestive system. They are acquired either by puppies from their mothers while nursing, by swallowing the parasite’s egg, or by having the hookworm burrow into the skin. Hookworms attach to the lining of the intestinal wall and feed on the dog’s blood. Symptoms include diarrhea, loss of appetite, anemia, weight loss, and failure to gain weight. A vet can check your dog’s stool for hookworm and medication is used to eliminate this parasite.

Ringworm is a fungus, not a worm. Puppies with a still-developing immune system and adult dogs who are malnourished, stressed, or have a diminished immune system are most susceptible. A dog that is infected with ringworm will develop lesions on the head, ears, paws, and forelimbs. Vets typically prescribe medicated shampoo or ointment to kill the fungus. In more severe cases, oral medication is needed.

Roundworm is a very common parasite in dogs and absorbs nutrients from the food that a dog eats, which means that fewer nutrients go to the dog. Roundworm can be acquired by ingesting eggs shed in the stool, transmitted during pregnancy, or transmitted through the mother’s milk. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, pot belly, and malnourishment. Treatment is done through deworming medication.

Tapeworms live in the intestines and, luckily, rarely cause serious disease. Generally, they are transmitted by ingesting fleas, but some species are transmitted by eating raw meat. Symptoms include weight loss and occasional diarrhea. You may notice irritation around the anus or worm segments (which look like grains of rice) in their stool. Oral medication or injections are used to treat tapeworm. The best way to prevent tapeworm is to keep your dog flea-free.Whipworms are acquired by licking or sniffing the contaminated ground. They live in the dog’s large intestine and are very difficult to spot in a stool sample. Stool that is covered in mucous is generally the telltale sign. In more severe cases, symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, and anemia. Whipworms are resistant to the usual deworming medication, so a different type is generally used.

Coccidia, giardia, and spirochetes are non-worm parasites that live in a dog’s intestinal tract. They can infect a dog before they show any symptoms. You may not know that your dog is carrying one of these parasites until they become stressed or another immunity-compromising factor comes into play.

Mites

Mites are tiny and burrow into the dog’s skin, causing irritation and inflammation. These are fairly common parasites that can cause a range of skin conditions, including mange. They can make your dog very uncomfortable. If your dog has mites, they likely are itching more, have signs of a skin condition, have hair loss, developing sores, and have dandruff.

Mites infestations can be treated with a simple anti-parasitic wash. Medication can also be prescribed. The best way to prevent mites is to ensure your dog does not come into contact with another dog who has mites.

These are some of the most common parasites that your dog can become infected with. Luckily, these are treatments and ways to prevent all of these. If you notice any of the symptoms of a parasite in your dog, be sure to schedule an appointment at Paradise Point Animal Hospital in Phoenix today. We can make a diagnosis and find the right treatment for your dog. In the meantime, be sure to do what you can to prevent these parasites! Contact us today to learn more about parasite prevention.

Infographic Signs Your Dog Has Parasites