- Nematodes (roundworms) are free-living in the intestines. They can be transmitted from dog to dog via eggs shed in the feces.
- Puppies who have a large amount of roundworms have a 'pot bellied' appearance
- If a growing puppy is infected with a large number of roundworms, the worms can stunt the puppy's growth, cause serious digestive upsets and result in excessive gas formation.
- Hookworms, particularly Ancylostoma, are one of the most pathogenic intestinal parasites of the dog.
- The hookworm is approximately ½ to 1" (1-2 cm) long and attaches to the lining of the small intestines, where they feed on blood. As a result of blood sucking, hookworms can cause severe anemia.
- The infective larvae can enter the host either by mouth or through the skin, particularly the feet.
- Eczema and secondary bacterial infection can result due to irritation as they burrow through the skin.
- Whipworms are small worms, usually only ¼" (6 mm) long, that live in the large intestine, where they cause irritation and inflammation.
- Symptoms of whipworm infection include chronic watery diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, and weight loss.
- In order to get tapeworms, an intermediate host (such as a flea or certain species of rodent) is required. In other words, your dog cannot get tapeworms directly from another dog or a cat.
- Dipylidium caninum, the most common tapeworm of the dog, causes few problems in the adult host but can result in digestive upsets and stunting of growth in puppies. The intermediate host of Dipylidium is the flea.
- Taenia species of tapeworms usually infect adult dogs and cause few problems. Puppies are occasionally infected and, depending on the type of worm involved, the large number of worms can cause intestinal blockage. The intermediate host for Taenia species is small mammals such as rodents or rabbits.
- Echinococcus, another type of tapeworm, is important because it is zoonotic- meaning humans can be infected. The adult tapeworm is tiny, only about ¼" (5-6 mm) long. Sheep and sometimes people can act as the intermediate hosts in which the immature forms of Echinococcus develop inside hyadatic cysts in various organs. In people, these cysts can involve the lungs or brain.
How to prevent internal parasites:
The good news is that there are a number of easy ways to prevent parasites in your pet.
- Give flea/tick preventative and heartworm preventative every month year round.
- Heartworm preventative such as Heartgard or Interceptor protect not only against heartworm, but also internal parasites such as Roundworms and Hookworms! Flea/tick preventative also helps protect your pet from Tapeworm.
- Keep your yard feces free
- Good sanitation is one of the best ways to reduce your pet's exposure risk to parasites. That means cleaning up after your pooch — all dog feces should be picked up from your backyard, since most parasites are spread through contact with feces. A fecal-contaminated yard can be a source of exposure for many months, since some parasites can live in the soil for a long time.
- Have your veterinarian do a regular fecal check.
- Every year (or for some pets, every six months) when you visit your veterinarian for your pet’s exam, bring a fresh sample of your pet's stool. Your veterinarian can use this sample to test for parasites.
- Young pets are particularly vulnerable to intestinal parasites. If you’ve just gotten a new puppy or kitten, make sure you bring a stool sample along to the first veterinary exam. This will help get your pet off to a healthy start. If your pet was obtained from a breeder, the breeder should also give you a record of when the puppy was dewormed and what kind of medication was used. This is critical information that should be passed on to your veterinarian
- Don't let your dog eat feces.
- Since many parasitic worms are shed into an animal’s feces, eating poop is a prime way to pick up parasites. It’s important to prevent your pet from eating feces by either disposing of the waste immediately or taking your dog out on a leash when you are in an area where fecal matter from other animals may be accessible.
- Don't let your pet drink standing water.
- Standing water is a prime breeding ground for a parasite called Giardia, which can cause severe diarrhea. Never let your pet drink from standing water or puddles and always provide a clean, fresh source of water for your pet to help prevent him seeking water elsewhere.
Protecting your pet from internal parasites is an important part of keeping him healthy and happy for life. All it takes is a little commitment on your part to help stop these tiny pests from bugging your furry friend.