6 Common Parasites Found on Dogs and How to Prevent Them

Parasites are capable of living within your pet dog’s body for months, sometimes even years before the first symptoms are shown. Since knowing is half the battle, understanding what types of parasites found on dogs exist will allow you to take appropriate action. These parasites often cause skin infections and make for a very unpleasant experience for your dog, so it’s always advisable to consult with your veterinarian to take necessary precautions.

Common Dog Parasites

Today we’ll talk about the six most common parasites found on dogs and how to prevent them, so without any further ado, let’s start from the top:

1. Fleas

The most common parasite when it comes to dogs is a flea. They are known to attack humans as well, although they typically reside in the dog’s neck (near the collar area), at the back of the dog’s rear legs, and near its belly.

Dogs will typically scratch areas affected by fleas, so the easiest way to recognize this problem is to pay attention to when your dog is scratching its back legs, belly, or collar. Flea bites are usually followed by redness, although it’s fairly common for affected areas to be slightly swollen. If your dog continues scratching, the wounds may get infected.

The best way to combat fleas is to take preemptive measures; set limits to the time your dog spends outdoors, and make sure it has minimal contact with stray animals. Bathing and brushing will often reveal fleas, making them susceptible to handpicking.

If the fleas are noticed late, they may have grown in numbers, which means that you may want to use anti-flea powders and shampoos. Eliminating adult fleas should take priority, as hatchlings are not capable of multiplying.

Organic and natural anti-flea products are recommended, as your dog may react negatively to strong chemicals.

2. Tapeworms

Tapeworms live in the intestines of dogs and can be significantly more dangerous than many other parasites found on dogs. Animals that drink from contaminated pools of water are most likely to get infected, although tapeworms can also live on land as well.

Discovering a tapeworm infection isn’t easy due to the vast array of symptoms it can cause. Dogs of different sizes and constitutions may react differently to the infection; strong, healthy dogs can suppress the symptoms, but not the infection for longer periods of time.

Some of the most common symptoms of infection are nausea, weakness, diarrhea, dizziness, and weight loss. Tapeworms also have a tendency to migrate to other tissues, which can cause severe organ damage. This phenomenon is referred to as ‘invasive infection’, and it’s usually followed by heavier symptoms, such as headaches, cystic lumps, allergic reactions, and seizures.

The best solution to tapeworms found in dogs is Praziquantel. It doesn’t have any side effects, and it eliminates tapeworm larvae rapidly. If Praziquantel is unavailable in your country, you should check with your veterinarian for advice about chewable tapeworm medicine.

3. Mites 

Mites are quite a common concern for dogs. They usually transfer from an infected animal to your dog, and depending on the type of mite, they can cause hair loss, itching, thickened skin, as well as skin infections. While there are shampoos and medications available to treat mites, it’s always best to have your dog examined by a veterinarian who will be able to take a scraping of their skin to determine the type of mite and best treatment.

The first type of mites are demodex mites which is typically passed down from an adult dog to her puppies. Generally the dog’s immune system is able to control the mites, however if your dog’s immune system is unable to control the mites, it can lead to mange. Symptoms of demodex mites usually include hair loss, thickened skin, and skin infections. It’s usually noticeable by missing patches of fur on your dog’s body. If it affects a large part of your dog’s body, it can cause skin infections and your dog will feel sick. Demodex is quite responsive to treatment with most cases cured within 6 months.

The second type of mites are sarcoptes mites also known as sarcoptic mange. These mites transfer from infected animals to other animals, and can also be passed onto humans. They are highly infectious and bury themselves into the skin of their host. Dogs that have sarcoptic mites will be very itchy and have hair loss. If they are in an advanced stage, they will likely have developed scabies on their body, especially around the elbows and ears. Your veterinarian would be able to advise the best treatment options for your dog. 

The third type of mites found on dogs are ear mites. These mites feed off skin oils and ear wax, and will cause your dog’s ears to be very itchy. You’ll be able to tell if your dog has ear mites as they will possibly shake their head constantly, or scratch their ears. Ear mites usually cause a black discharge inside the dog’s ear, and can cause an unpleasant odor. Ear mites are transferred between animals. If you suspect that your dog has ear mites, it’s advisable to see a veterinarian as they would be able to prescribe medication to treat the mites.

4. Ticks

Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors are most likely to get infected by ticks, especially during warmer periods between April and September. Ticks aren’t particularly affected by weather and are active year-round, although they are far more active in the summertime.

Tick infections are relatively similar to flea infections symptoms-wise, although complications with ticks are far more common. Some of the most notable symptoms include labored breathing, coughing, and frequent scratching at the affected areas.

If the ticks have remained undiscovered for extended periods, complications may occur in the form of impaired coordination of hind legs, dramatically reduced appetite, and vomiting.

Brushing and grooming are the best ways to find ticks, although careful searches are required to find parasites that have buried themselves deep into your dog’s skin. Look for ticks everywhere, especially in and around the ears, under the collar, under the legs, around the tail, and between the toes.

Removing ticks is a delicate matter, as the parasite needs to be pulled out completely. The head of a tick can remain stuck into your dog’s body, causing infection despite its body being removed. Use tweezers to twist the parasite before plucking it away.

Tick removal tools remove the guesswork and are substantially easier to use. Various anti-tick products are available on the market, ranging from tick prevention sprays and lotions to herbal repellent collars. Diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled in yards and gardens to allow your dog to freely play outside without having to worry about catching ticks.

5. Ringworms

Ringworms or Dermatophytes are pathogenic fungi that live and grow in a dog’s hair follicles and skin. They can also be found on your pet’s nails when dogs contact ringworm-infected objects through clawing.

Puppies, as well as older dogs and pets with a compromised immune system, are more susceptible to widespread infections and complications.

Hair loss is one of the most common symptoms that should reveal ringworm infections, followed by reddened skin caused by inflammation. Ringworms rarely itch dogs, so you should pay close attention to the quality of your dog’s hair, skin, and claws. Brittle claws, scabby skin, and patchy tufts of hair are telltale signs of infection.

Different stages of infection are handled through topical therapy, oral medications, and environmental decontamination. Instant remedies and cures have not been invented yet, so taking your dog to a veterinarian as soon as you notice the signs is recommended.

6. Heartworm

Heartworm is the only internal type of parasite commonly found in dogs. Heartworm is also one of the most lethal parasites that can affect both dogs and humans. This parasite is typically contracted through mosquito bites, making dogs definitive hosts.

Heartworms can affect organs other than the heart, most notably lungs, and their quick breeding cycle makes them a major threat for all dogs, regardless of their constitution, size, and health.

These parasites reach the larvae stage within 10-14 days when they become capable of further spreading the infection. Fortunately, larvae need multiple months to reach maturity, although females will still continue to breed and release their offspring into your pet’s bloodstreams.

The main problem with heartworms is the ‘cascading’ infection as batches of larvae reach maturity. The organs start declining rapidly, and only the most fortunate (healthy) dogs are capable of scraping through alive.

Heartworm tests are mandatory, especially for dogs who have never received heartworm prevention therapy. The most effective FDA-approved drug designed to eliminate heartworms is Melarsomine dihydrochloride.

Conclusion

We hope that this brief guide was useful to you and that you have learned something new today on the common parasites found on dogs and how to prevent them. Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are all going through and have a good one, guys!

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