Internal parasites and your dog

Dogs may be infested with at least five types of internal parasites. They are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms and heartworms. The first three can be diagnosed by laboratory examination of the dog’s stool and tapeworms can be determined by seeing segments in the stool or attached to the hair around the anus. Your veterinarian must take a blood sample to test for heartworms. Once your veterinarian determines which type of worm or worms your dog has, he/she can then advise the best treatment.

Roundworms are the dog’s most common intestinal parasite. Roundworms are very common in puppies. Affected puppies may eat excessively, have diarrhea, be potbellied and have hiccups. They have a life cycle that permits complete eradication by worming twice, ten days apart. The first worming will remove all adults and the second will destroy all subsequently hatched eggs before they can produce more parasites.

Hookworms are also commonly encountered in puppies, but dogs of any age can be infested. The hookworm may be passed to puppies before birth or at an early age. The hookworm is a tiny, white, hair-like parasite. Mild infestations may produce loss of weight, poor coat, chronic diarrhea and other symptoms.

Whipworms are white in color with the head being at the small thread-like end. They are found in the large intestine and the appendix of dogs. The symptoms of whipworms may be vague and include intermittent diarrhea, poor condition and a harsh coat.

Mosquitoes pass heartworm infestation in dogs. The life cycle of the heartworm begins when a mosquito bites an infected dog, carrying tiny immature heartworms circulating in its blood. The mosquito takes in larvae when it feeds. During the next two-three weeks, the larvae develop within the mosquito into the infective state. When the mosquito feeds again, it can transmit infective larvae to the healthy dog. The larvae penetrate the dog’s skin and migrate through the tissues and develop over the next few months, eventually reaching the dog’s heart. Once in the dog’s heart, the worms can grow to as long as 14 inches and cause significant damage to the heart, lungs and other vital organs. If left untreated, heartworm disease can result in death.

Dogs with this disease tire easily, have difficulty in breathing, chronic coughing and shows weight loss. Administration of preventive medicine throughout the spring, summer and fall months is advised. You veterinarian will first take a blood sample to test for the presence of the disease and if the dog is heartworm free, he/she will prescribe medicine to protect against any infestation.