Parasites and Your Pet Dog: Your Questions Answered

This article answers some common questions you may have about parasites that can affect your dog's health. Read on to find out more.

What types of parasites can affect my dog?

Dogs can be affected by various parasites, including intestinal worms such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworms, fleas and ticks.

How does my dog become infected with parasites?

Parasites can enter your dog's body in several ways depending on the type of parasite you are dealing with. Fleas and ticks can infect your dog by biting and feeding off of its blood. Roundworms and hookworms can be passed from a pregnant female dog to puppies while still in the womb. Your puppy could also be infected via the ingestion of eggs. Intestinal roundworm larvae are transmitted via contaminated soil or other objects that contact your pet's mouth, such as toys.

How can parasites impact my dog's health?

Parasites can cause various health problems, depending on the type of parasite. Roundworms and hookworms, in particular, can affect your dog's health in many ways, including causing vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, anaemia (due to blood loss) and malnutrition. Your dog may also experience pain or discomfort due to these worms gnawing at the intestinal lining.

How is a diagnosis made?

Diagnosis of parasites in your dog usually occurs during a physical examination. Your veterinarian will look for signs such as worms being passed via your pet's faeces, roundworms being visible around his anal area, weight loss and vomiting. In some cases, a blood test may be recommended to determine the type of parasite or if multiple types are present.

What treatments are available?

Treatment depends on the type of parasite involved and whether it is considered contagious or not (such as tapeworm requiring an intermediate host). There are medications available that are effective against various types of intestinal parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend the best medicine to use based on your pet's age, breed and species (dog vs. cat). Be sure to speak with a veterinarian before starting any medications or deworming treatments.

What can I do to prevent my dog from becoming infected?

The most important step you can take to prevent parasitic infections in your puppy is through regular deworming. This should be done either by prescription or over-the-counter product, depending on what type of parasite is involved. Annual heartworm testing is also recommended in areas with high prevalence rates for this disease.

For additional information on this topic, contact a veterinary service in your area.