Parasites are organisms that spend most of their lives on or inside other animals. Common external parasites of dogs are fleas, flies, mites, ticks and lice. Internal parasites that frequently infest dogs can be far more dangerous.
Parasites can carry and transfer diseases and can move from dogs to people. Some dogs are well-adapted to the parasites and develop few, if any, symptoms. However, many dogs cannot tolerate the consequences of parasites and become very ill. Sometimes, parasitic infestations can be fatal.
Here are some intestinal parasites that dog owners should be mindful of:
- Giardia– This parasite is transmitted through fecal-oral route. This can occur from water, food or fomites (an object carrying the parasite or any other disease). This parasite is zoonotic (meaning humans can get it). Your animal may or may not have clinical signs associated with this parasites but if they do they will have diarrhea and weight loss. There is medication to treat this protozoal parasite but more than one round may be needed and your animal may need a combination of medications.
- Roundworms– This parasite is zoonotic. Fresh feces is not a concern for being contaminated since it can take about a month for the roundworms to be ready to infect the next host. This parasite can be transmitted to unborn puppies. There is a safe and effective treatment and it is usually given to most puppies from your Veterinarian. Also Heartworm prevention usually prevents against this parasite.
- Hookworms– This parasite is zoonotic . The other thing to note about hookworms is that they suck blood and can be transmitted to the unborn puppy. Since they suck blood they can actually be lethal to very young puppies. These parasites live mainly in the small intestines but can actually migrate through tissues and encyst. The good news is there is a very safe and effective treatment and it is usually given to most puppies from your Veterinarian. Also Heartworm prevention usually prevents against this parasite.
- Whipworms– This parasites lives in the cecum of the gastrointestinal tract. Once this parasites eggs’ pass through the intestines it takes 2-4 weeks to be able to infect another host. This means that the infected stool is a problem but the environment is the problem. This parasites doesn’t continuously lay eggs. This means that sometimes fecal samples can be negative even though your animal is infected. This parasites does not infect humans.
- Coccidia– This is a parasite that causes watery diarrhea and sometimes can have blood in the stool. This parasites is usually ingested by the animal licking the dirt off of their feet if it comes from contaminated soil. There is treatment for this type of parasite but it is not the regular deworming medication.
It is always recommended when taking your pet to the Veterinarian to bring a stool sample. If your pet is positive for any parasite your Veterinarian will provide the appropriate medication.