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Common Dog Parasites

As a dog owner, one of your key responsibilities is going to be looking out for your pet’s health.  Just as human beings get sick, dogs can routinely pick up harmful parasites.  You’ll want to familiarize yourself with those parasites so you can recognize signs and symptoms of infection.  It’s also smart to take your dog to the vet for an annual check up so that you don’t take any chances.  What are some of the common dog parasites which you should watch out for?

·    Giardia.  This is an intestinal parasite which usually infects older dogs.  It comes from soiled food and water which has been exposed to feces.  Usually the parasite causes no symptoms in dogs, or causes only diarrhea.  If your dog is infected for a long time period however, this condition can result in weight loss, malnutrition and fatality.  The disease can be treated if detected, so if you see any of these symptoms, you should take your dog in for testing.

·    Roundworms.  These are perhaps the most common parasitic worms which infect dogs, in particular puppies.  There are numerous ways for a dog to get infected, and most dogs will have roundworms at some point of life.  They can produce diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, or alter your dog’s appearance to include a potbelly or dull hair.  Sometimes no symptoms are present, so this is another parasite it’s important to test regularly for.

·    Whipworms.  These are intestinal parasites which live in the cecum.  Whipworms may cause bloody diarrhea but often do not cause symptoms.  Even asymptomatic infections can eventually become fatal however, so it is key to test for this parasite annually.

·    Fleas.  Does your dog scratch a lot, possibly resulting in patches of missing hair or irritated skin?  This can be a sign your dog has fleas.  You may even be able to see the fleas in your dog’s coat if you look closely.  A veterinarian can help you figure out how to end the fleas’ life cycle and cleanse your environment of these pests.

·    Mange.  Mange is caused by a mite called Demodex.  Mange may result in patches of missing hair or irritated skin, usually beginning on your dog’s head and muzzle.  Mange can occur in specific areas or can spread to your dog’s entire body.  

·    Scabies.  This is a type of mange known as sarcoptic mange which is caused by a different type of parasite, the scabiei mite.  The symptoms include hair loss and scabs as well as intense itching.  

While these are some of the most common dog parasites, it’s by no means an exhaustive list.  Learn all you can about parasites since it’ll be up to you to be observant and notice if something may be affecting your dog’s health.  Some parasites present no obvious symptoms, though, which is why annual testing is so important.  Taking preventive steps to protect your dog’s health is just as important and can help your dog to live a healthier, happier and longer life.


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