It is not uncommon for dogs to become infected with parasites, which are organisms that obtain their nourishment from another without providing anything in return. The damage inflicted is usually minor, but if left untreated, can quickly turn serious or even life-threatening. Dogs that live outdoors have the highest risk of contracting parasites. However, with some protection, you can prevent these problems and keep your dog comfortable.
Types of parasites
There are a dozen types of parasites to which dogs are susceptible. Here is a list with descriptions and treatments.
- Coccidia – These parasites live inside the intestine. They are caused by the swallowing of dirt or feces that may contain these parasites. They mostly affect puppies and can cause diarrhea. Puppies should be tested and feces kept cleaned up to prevent infection. If diagnosed with coccidia, there are medications the vet can prescribe.
- Ear mites – These are tiny bugs that live inside the ears of dogs. They produce brown ear wax and are contagious. They cause redness and itchiness in the ears. Ear mites can be easily treated by vets with a topical ointment or ear drops.
- Fleas – Fleas are the most common parasite and are particularly troublesome when it is warmer. They live in the dog’s fur and cause itchiness, which in turn can lead to hair loss from constant scratching. This scratching and black specs on your dog’s coat are signs of flea infection. Regular cleaning and vacuuming can prevent them, as well as flea treatment for your dog. Insecticide sprays, particularly in outdoor areas your dog likes, may be required.
- Heartworms – Heartworms are also common, but can also be prevented by giving your dog a monthly heartworm tablet. Heartworms can reach one foot in length and are transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworms can be fatal is left untreated.
- Tapeworms – Tapeworms are long and flat. Dog owners may notice them in their dog’s feces or areas where their dogs sleep or eat. Tapeworms do not typically cause any symptoms in dogs. They are prevented by heartworm and flea medication, since fleas are the typical hosts for tapeworms.
- Roundworms – Roundworms are the most common worm found in dogs. In fact, almost all dogs become infected with them, typically as puppies. Roundworms may appear in a dog’s vomit or feces and cause weight loss. Roundworms can be prevented by some heartworm medications. In addition, it is important to keep your dog’s area clean.
- Hookworms – Hookworms feed on a dog’s blood through the intestine. They cause blood loss, which can be fatal in puppies. Weight loss and diarrhea are the most common symptoms. Hookworms thrive in contaminated areas, so it is important to keep your dog’s area clean.
- Whipworms – A dog can get whipworms by swallowing their eggs in soil. They are also spread through feces, so be sure to clean your dog’s area often. They may not cause any symptoms in most cases. However, serious cases can involve bloody diarrhea.
- Mange – Demodex, commonly known as mange, lives on the surface of your dog’s skin. It causes hair loss in patches, which can usually be treated. A clean environment and high-quality diet can prevent mange from occurring.
- Scabies – Scabies is caused by a skin parasite. They get under the dog’s skin and cause severe itching. It can lead to hair loss and scabs, especially on the ears, chest, abdomen and elbows. It is not easy to diagnose, but your vet can prescribe appropriate medication or treatment.
- Giardia – Giardia is often present in feces and water. It more commonly affects puppies. Diarrhea, which is the usual symptom of the disease, can lead to weight loss and even death if it is not treated. Providing your dog with clean drinking water at all times, in addition to making sure feces are kept cleaned up, is critical in preventing giardia. If you think your dog may have giardia, an examination of the dog’s feces can determine the diagnosis.
- Ticks – Ticks are common parasites that use their mouths to attach to a dog’s skin. Ticks live in brushes, trees and tall grass. Therefore, proper landscaping can prevent them and eliminate the need for tick medication. The remainder of this article will focus on the problems they cause and ways to deal with them.
Tick bite complications
Ticks should be given special attention by dog owners. They feed off hosts such as dogs by sucking their blood can cause skin irritation, rashes, blood loss, anemia and paralysis. They can also cause diseases, with the most common one being Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the deer tick feeding off of rodents. It can cause swollen joints, lameness, fever and depression. However, if treated quickly, a dog can make a full recovery.
Tick bites can also cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis (which can also afflict people). These diseases can be deadly if left untreated.
It is important to check your dog for ticks regularly, especially if he spends a lot of time outdoors. If you see a tick, pull it off the skin by using tweezers. Try to grasp it as close to the skin as possible. It is important not to squeeze the tick, as this can spread bacteria and cause infection.
Without twisting, slowly pull the tick straight back. Because ticks stick to dogs’ skin very tightly, a small portion of your dog’s skin may come off as well. If it bleeds, apply pressure. If the head gets stuck in the dog’s skin, use the tweezers to remove it. If you are unsuccessful, just be patient and wait for it to fall out on its own.
After removing the tick, use soap and water to clean the affected area. Check the area for the next several days and look for rashes or signs of infection.
Contact a vet if any complications occur. It is recommended that you save the tick in case your dog becomes ill. Store it in a small container with an airtight lid.
Peteducation.com has more information about the various types of parasites, as well as their classifications and life cycles here.