9. Canine Parasites - Dangers of Parasitic Attachments
Despite a pet owner's best efforts, any dog can become infested with a common parasite. While recurring infestations may be a sign of a cleanliness problem in the dog's living area, or even negligence on the part of the owner in some severe cases, most dogs will have a slight infestation at least once within their life spans.
The most common parasites that dogs come into contact with are:
- internal “worm” parasites
Dogs that are free from parasites are healthier and happier than those with frequent infestations, and they may be able to enjoy longer lives than the latter. It is imperative that all dog owners check with their veterinarians frequently about the newest and most effective preventative treatments.
Treatments are not necessarily fail proof, however. It is your job as your dog's main care provider to be aware of any signs of discomfort or infection associated with common canine parasites.
You Share Your Pet's Environment. You Are Susceptible to His Pests.
While protecting your best companion is of course a priority, do not forget to protect yourself as well. You and your family share close quarters with your pet, therefore you are an easy target for anything that he may be carrying.
Fleas, ticks, and worms are no more fun for humans than they are for adults. To prevent transference, remember to keep the following guidelines in mind whenever you are caring for an infested dog:
- Always use a pair of sterile, disposable gloves when checking for parasites.
- Do not allow children access to a parasite infested dog until he is properly treated.
- Check for fleas, ticks, and other abnormalities at each bath time (ideally every week).
- Check yourself and other household members for parasitic infestations if your dog has been recently treated.
If you have recently had to treat a pet who has had any sort of parasites, it is essential to clean your entire home and yard area thoroughly. Pests can remain in bedding, linens, bathrooms, carpets, and other heavy traffic areas for an extended period of time whether they are feeding or not.
Whenever possible, use bleach and hot water for indoor cleansing and use pest treatments that are not harmful to dogs outside. Always check labels when using any products for warning against pet or child contact.
For example, many lawn products are fatal cocktails for pets, even in minimal doses.
Fleas, Ticks, and Other External Parasites
Most dog owners have been forced to deal with flea and tick infestations with their pets at some point. This is especially common during the first two to six puppy months, where constant exploration often brings constant critter companions into a dog's life.
For clarification purposes, fleas are tiny black insects that can jump from one surface to another. Ticks, on the other hand, are usually of a dark shade as well, however as adults they will often attach themselves firmly to their hosts. This can make their removal quite difficult. Both pests can transmit disease, and both feed off of the blood of their host animals.
Serious infestations often cause illness marked by lethargy. Treatment products are best when administered by a veterinarian, however manual removal by the owner is often necessary as well.
Mosquitoes can also be a source of discomfort to dogs. While one or two mosquito bites is not usually cause for alarm, constant scratching at the site of the bite can cause open wounds and infections. Also of concern are diseases that can be transferred through mosquitoes, as they also feed off of the blood of their hosts.
While mosquitoes are not generally a serious danger to dogs, you can consult your vet about repellent options that are safe for your pet. Never use repellents made for human use without consulting your vet first.
Worm Parasites are a Serious Problem
While the external parasites listed above are generally simple to treat, worm infestations can be a bit harder to detect. That being said, they are also more problematic if infestations go on too long.
Lack of treatment can cause serious illness and even death very quickly. Common worm varieties include:
Both hookworms and roundworms can be detected in a dog's stool. Roundworms are long and white, and often are excreted in large amounts. Hookworms, however, will need to be discovered in a veterinarian's lab. Tapeworms are also detected in the dog's stool.
They have a short, white appearance, similar to that of roundworms yet much smaller in size. Heartworms are contracted by mosquitoes, and these parasites can be quite deadly. They grow inside of a dog's heart, causing heart failure. Whipworms infest a dog's intestines, where they feed on tissue and blood.
They can be detected by veterinarian testing only. Signs of a worm infestation may include vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, intensely increased appetite coupled with sudden weight loss, and stool irregularities.
Treatment options for external parasites that commonly affect dogs usually come in the form of a liquid that is applied directly to the pet's coat. This may come in the form of a shampoo that must be used regularly or a medication that is left on at all times.
In the case of internal parasites, do not wait for infestation to render treatment to your dog. Treatments for aggressive internal canine parasites may or may not be effective, depending upon when they are discovered. As discovery is often not possible until a dog is in need of emergency care, prevention is key.
Ask your vet about preventative medications for all types of parasites that can affect your dog. Most parasites can easily be avoided through simply weekly or monthly treatments that are easy to administer.
Preventative care is far more cost effective, and will help to ensure that your pet never has to go through painful infestations or intrusive treatments.