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Signs and Symptoms of Parasites in Dogs

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Signs and Symptoms of Parasites in Dogs

Parasites in dogs can be a simple nuisance or a serious health threat. Fortunately, internal and external parasites are easily controlled with over-the-counter and prescription products.

Signs and symptoms of parasites vary. Fleas are the most common external parasite, causing skin irritation, hair loss and itching. Internal parasites—usually in the form of gastrointestinal worms—cause digestive upsets such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Several types of worms may infect your dog; the symptoms will help you identify and treat them.

Types and Symptoms of Dog Parasites

Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes and this parasite can be fatal. These worms attack and destroy heart muscle tissue, causing heart failure. Your veterinarian can prescribe a monthly heartworm preventative to combat his mosquito-borne illness. Early stages heartworm disease has few symptoms. As the disease progresses, your dog will show symptoms of heart failure such as coughing, lethargy and loss of appetite.

Pinworms are small, white worms that spread through contaminated water, food and bedding. Common and highly contagious, pinworms cause intense anal itching. Dogs with pinworms often “scooch,” dragging their rear end across the floor in an effort to relieve the itch.

Hookworms mature in the intestines of your dog. They deplete the body of nutrients. In puppies, hookworms are serious—they can cause diarrhea and poor growth as well as fatal anemia and pneumonia. All puppies should be treated for hookworms during the first 3 months of life.

Roundworms, also known as ascarids, are common in dogs and puppies. Dogs with roundworms will often develop a potbelly. Because roundworms are often transmitted to puppies in utero, the mother dog should be dewormed prior to giving birth. As with hookworms, all puppies should be treated for roundworms during the first 3 months of life.

Whipworms are long, thin worms that live in the large intestine. Common in dog kennels, they are easily spread to other dogs. Whipworms cause vomiting and diarrhea. Severe infestations can cause weight loss and bloody diarrhea.

Tapeworms live in the intestines of infected dogs. Usually acquired when a dog ingests fleas or contaminated prey, tapeworms cause poor digestion and mild diarrhea.

Less Common

Worms There are other, less common worms that can infect dogs and puppies. Dogs who eat raw fish may acquire flukes, a parasite that causes intestinal inflammation, bleeding in the lungs and skin disorders. Threadworms result in diarrhea with blood. Dogs in humid areas with high temperatures are more susceptible to threadworms. If your dog likes to eat beetles, cockroaches, crickets or frogs, he may be at risk for stomach worms. These parasites can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, and dark feces.

Digestive system parasites are more dangerous for puppies than adult dogs, but worms can cause discomfort and illness in any dog. A fecal test will identify intestinal parasites, and treatment is usually quick and effective. Some worms can be spread to humans, so regular deworming of dogs and puppies is a must.

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