Parasite prevention medication being applied to dog

Dog Parasites

Parasites are nasty creatures, but their loathsomeness should be the least of your concerns. Intestinal worms, heartworms, fleas, ticks, and other parasites can cause severe health complications in pets. That’s why parasite prevention is an essential component of routine wellness care for your canine companion.

When it comes to something as potentially devastating as dog parasites, your local veterinarian is the best source of information. We’re glad you found us here at Veterinary Medical Center! While we encourage you to contact your dog’s regular veterinarian with any questions you may have about your dog’s prevention protocols, we decided to answer FAQs on dog parasites. If your dog needs a veterinarian in Union City, CA, we can help! Call (510) 441-8500 or email us at [email protected] to make an appointment.

How old does my dog need to be to start parasite prevention?

We recommend starting your dog’s parasite prevention protocol at about six to eight weeks old. In most cases, by the time you bring your puppy home, a veterinarian has already started them on dewormers for roundworms and hookworms. We’ll be able to start your new pet on an effective flea, tick, and heartworm preventative during their first appointment.

Person feeding dog parasite prevention medication

What are internal and intestinal parasites, and how do I get rid of them in my dog?

There are several types of internal intestinal parasites that affect dogs differently.

A few of the most common internal and intestinal parasites include:

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Whipworms
  • Giardia
  • Coccidia
  • Heartworms

Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms are all intestinal parasites. They take up residence in a host’s intestines and can cause bleeding, anemia, weight loss, diarrhea, and other symptoms. We prescribe dewormers to rid puppies and adult dogs of intestinal parasites. The exact medication used varies depending on which parasites are present.

While they aren’t the typical “worms,” Giardia and coccidia are intestinal parasites. Treatment for these parasites varies depending on the severity of the infection and the patient’s symptoms.

Heartworm is an internal parasite, too, but instead of residing in the intestines, it lives in the bloodstream. We’ll discuss this particularly nasty parasite later.

Can I see intestinal parasites if my dog has them?

Some intestinal parasites are visible; some are not. It’s a common misconception that you can always spot evidence of parasite infections in a dog’s stool. While you may see evidence of tapeworms, other parasites, including hookworms, giardia, and coccidia, are not visible. Instead, we perform fecal examinations to check for intestinal parasites.

If you do see worms, it’s vital to give us as much information about them as possible.

When describing visible worms, consider these questions:

  • What do they look like?
  • Are they long or short?
  • Are they white?
  • Are they straight or curly?
  • Do they resemble small grains of rice? Or sesame seeds?

Any information you provide helps us determine what type of infection we need to treat.

Are there parasites that live in the bloodstream?

Heartworms are parasites that live in the bloodstream. Transmitted by mosquitoes, they resemble cooked spaghetti noodles when fully grown. They reach 6-12 inches in length and eventually travel to a dog’s heart and lungs, where they cause severe health problems. Heartworm infections are complicated to treat and can be deadly, so prevention is crucial.

What are external parasites as opposed to internal parasites, and what can we do to prevent them?

External parasites are fleas, ticks, ear mites, and even lice — all those creepy crawlers you don’t want on your pets or yourself! Keeping your pet on an effective preventative is the best way to protect them from external parasites. The flea and tick products you can get from your veterinarian are safe and highly effective.

Dog wearing flea collar

Flea and tick preventatives come in several forms, including:

  • Topicals
  • Collars
  • Pills
  • Chews
  • Sprays

As your dog’s veterinarian, we will help you select the right products for your four-legged best friend based on their lifestyle. We advise you to schedule an appointment with us rather than purchasing over-the-counter products that are often, at best, ineffective and, at worst, dangerous.

How soon should I bring my dog in to see you or the veterinarian if I suspect they may have parasites?

If you think your dog has parasites, bring them in as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more severe your pet’s symptoms will likely become. Plus, many parasites are transmissible to humans.

Some of the most common symptoms of parasites include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Skin infections
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Anemia
  • Hair loss

In cases of heartworm, symptoms may also include a persistent cough, lethargy, and difficulty breathing.

The sooner you bring your dog in for an examination, the sooner we can start them on an appropriate course of treatment.

How will a veterinarian diagnose parasites in my dog?

There are different diagnostic protocols depending on what type of parasite your pet has. In cases of external parasites, we may only need to do a visual examination to spot fleas or flea dirt. We can usually spot ear mites, some types of skin mites, lice, and ticks during a visual exam, too. In some cases, we might do skin scrapes to check for certain mites and other external parasites.

Fecal testing is usually necessary for intestinal parasites. Even if you spot a worm, we’ll likely need to examine a stool sample to determine exactly what type of parasite they have. We recommend bringing your pet in for annual fecal exams so we can check for intestinal parasites even if your dog is not showing any symptoms.

We do yearly blood tests to check for heartworm disease. Even if your dog takes a heartworm preventive, we recommend having them tested. As previously mentioned, treating heartworm is difficult. The sooner we detect an infection, the earlier we can begin treatment.

Is ringworm a parasite?

Don’t let the name fool you; ringworm is not a parasite. It’s a fungus that comes from the soil, and it’s widespread and highly contagious. If your dog has ringworm, you’ll likely see a circular lesion on the skin with missing fur.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of parasites so important?

Early detection and diagnosis are essential for several reasons. For starters, your dog doesn’t want to live with insects making them itchy or causing them to lose their fur. They also don’t want to deal with the upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, or difficulty breathing caused by internal parasites.

Without prompt treatment, parasite infections get worse. Severe flea infestations can cause enough blood loss to result in anemia. Heavy intestinal parasite loads cause extreme weight loss. And untreated heartworm disease causes permanent damage to a dog’s heart and lungs.

Early detection and treatment of parasites also minimize the risk of spreading them to people. Keeping your pet parasite-free is a crucial step in protecting your family.

Is there a way to prevent parasites in your yard?

Yes and no. Pest control companies can treat your lawn for fleas, ticks, and mosquitos, and keeping your grass neatly cut helps keep these parasites at bay. However, certain worm eggs are so resilient that eliminating them from your property would require burning your lawn and getting rid of the top foot or so of soil. The best way to prevent the spread of parasites is to clean up your dog’s waste, wash your hands, and keep your pet on proper preventatives.

Have more questions about dog parasites? We’d love to help! Contact us today by sending an email to [email protected] or calling (510) 441-8500.