Diseases such as distemper and parvovirus can have a serious impact on your dog’s health, but your dog can also be affected by external and internal parasites. Parasites are creatures that derive their living from feeding on the blood or tissues of a living host. These creatures, generally small in size, can weaken your dog’s system and make them much more likely to become ill, and can also cause a great deal of damage to the dog’s body themselves. A visual check for external parasites should be made daily, and periodic testing to make sure your dog is not supporting a multitude of freeloaders can keep your companion healthy.
Few dogs go throughout life without experiencing some of these parasites, and the effect on the health of the dog can be slight or profound.
Fleas are insects, and good indications that your dog has these small, but pestiferous insects will include frantic scratching, flea dirt (the bloody flea feces), and irritated patches of skin from severe infestations. Fleas will be happy to feed on you and your family, too. Large populations of fleas on dogs can actually cause anemia and, if eaten during grooming, fleas can give your dog tapeworms.
Ticks are deeply-dyed villains that can carry dangerous illnesses such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Babesiosis. Dogs should be checked after being outside during tick season and the ticks removed as quickly as possible – the longer a tick is biting your dog, the greater the chances of infection.
Mange mites can infest a dog’s ears or the coat in general. These mites can cause extreme irritation and inflammation if untreated. Ironically, most pooches carry some mange mites on them from birth, but the creatures will simply live quietly on them in their hair follicles. However, if the body’s balance is upset, the mites will gain the upper hand and cause discomfort and irritation. Body mites can cause large portion of the body to lose hair and ear mites can cause swelling and intense itching. Treatment is available for mites that can return your pup to normal.
There are preventives such as flea collars and anti-tick treatments that can help to keep your dog at least relatively free of external parasites. Take your pet to the vet if he or she shows any signs of illness as a result of a tick bite – treatment is available.
As serious as external parasites of dogs can be, those that dwell inside your dog are probably even worse. Internal parasites can literally suck the lifeblood out of your pooch, leaving it weakened and unable to fight off illness. The only good news about internal parasites is that there is treatment available that will kill them.
Tapeworms are less likely to cause serious harm to your dog than other internal parasites. These segmented worms suck less blood out of the dog’s body, and are visible in the stool or on your pet’s bottom as resembling flattened grains of rice.
Roundworms are very common in dogs, and puppies often contract them from their mothers while still in the uterus or while nursing. Dogs will sometimes vomit up roundworms, and they can also cause diarrhea. Puppies are most at risk from roundworms and a bad infestation can actually be fatal. Roundworms can be spread to humans, especially children.
Whipworms can seriously impact your dog’s health as these worms embed themselves in your dog’s colon. Bloody diarrhea is a good sign that your dog may have these worms, and dehydration can occur.
Hookworms are among the most serious internal parasite that can infect your dog. These worms live in the small intestine and not only suck large amounts of blood, but also leave wounds that continue to bleed because of the anticoagulant in the worm’s saliva. Hookworms can cause not only bloody or tarry stools, but also anemia, and can kill the dog, especially younger ones. Humans can, in rare cases, pick up hookworms from infected dogs.
As it is impossible to absolutely prevent infestation of internal parasites, it’s a good idea to have your vet check out a stool sample twice a year, even if your dog is showing no symptoms. Any dog showing signs of internal parasites should be seen by the vet immediately.