Your dog could be affected by stomach problems quite often. These stomach problems can range from minor issues to severe problems. Parasites and worms can make home in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract which will have an adverse effect on your dog’s health.
Intestinal parasites can become a serious issue when it involves puppies.
How to identify if your dog has intestinal parasites?
When your dog has worms, you will come across some symptoms that could suggest the existence of these creepy crawlies. The most common of these symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Coat roughness
- Change in appearance
- A distended abdomen
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It is possible for dogs infected with intestinal parasites to exhibit no symptoms whatsoever or subtle symptoms that can be easily overlooked.
How do dogs end up getting infected by intestinal parasites?
Dogs can contract intestinal parasites in several ways. Dogs may inadvertently ingest the parasitic eggs or spores in contaminated soil, water, feces, or food. Transmission can also occur when a dog is bitten by an infected flea. Puppies can end up getting intestinal parasites from their mother, either in utero or from nursing.
Intestinal infestations in dogs are of two types: Worms and non-worm parasites.
Coccidia, Giardia, and Spirochetes are the most common non-worm parasites found in a dog’s digestive system, namely the gastro-intestinal tract.
For more details about these non-worm parasites in dogs, please check out our article on non-worm intestinal parasites in dogs.
Worms are parasites that live in the intestinal tract of all animals including dogs. These organisms are visible to the naked eye. However, since they live inside the gastroinestinal tract, it is not possible to reach inside and see them. These worms pass eggs or spores in your dog’s stool but they are microscopic and too small to be seen by the naked eye.
Hookworms live inside a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Hookworms may be transmitted from the mother dog to the puppies via nursing or when adult dogs end up ingesting the parasite’s eggs, or when the hookworm burrows into the dog’s skin. Hookworm larvae live in soil, and can be ingested when the dog comes in contact with such infected soil. Once it attaches itself to the lining of the intestinal wall, the hookworm feeds off of the dog’s blood. This can result in blood loss and anemia. The effects can be especially serious on puppies. Your veterinarian can detect hookworms by examining a stool sample under the microscope. Infection may be prevented by keeping your dog’s environment clean.
Do go through our article covering hookworms in dogs.
Ringworm is not a worm, but a fungus. Puppies that are less than a year old are more susceptible to ringworm as their immune system is not fully developed. Malnourished and stressed dogs, or dogs with a weak immune system, are also at risk.
Ringworm is transmitted rather easily. Once infected, dogs develop lesions on his head, ears, paws, and forelimbs. If the infection gets bad, the lesions cause circular bald spots which sometimes look red in the center. In mild cases however, dogs might suffer only a few broken hairs. In severe cases, the infection can spread over most of the dog’s body.
The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the infection. For mild cases, a medicated shampoo or ointment is prescribed. For severe cases oral medication may be required, in addition to removing the fur.
We have more information in our article covering ringworm in dogs.
Roundworms are rather common, puppies being at higher risk. They are 1-3 inches in length and look like spaghetti strips being white, firm and rounded in appearance.
It is diagnosed when the veterinarian finds signs of roundworms in the stool sample. Roundworms can be transmitted from one dog to another and even to children.
We have tried to cover more in depth in our article on roundworm in dogs.
Tapeworms are ingested by your dog, via an infected flea that is harboring a tapeworm egg. Segments of the worms are shed and can be spotted around the dog’s anus or in his stool. These segments look like grains of rice. The best protection against tapeworms is to ensure your dog is kept free from fleas and away from dead animals and garbage.
Our article on tapeworm in dogs provides more details.
Whipworms are transmitted when your dog licks or sniffs contaminated soil. Weight loss is the main symptom of a whipworm infection. An adult whipworm is only about 1/3-inch long, and looks like a very small piece of thread. They live in the dog’s large intestine. Unlike other parasitic worms they cannot be spotted in a stool sample easily. A common sign of whipworm is a mucous covering on the stool, usually at the tip. Though whipworms are rarely a cause of death, afflicted dogs need to be dewormed.
We have put together more information on whipworm in dogs.
What to do?
The problems of intestinal parasites can become severe and hence it is important to pay attention to these issues before the problem gets out of hand. Sometimes, these intestinal parasites may be transmitted from dogs to humans. Hence, it is important to get your dog treated as soon as possible.
Intestinal parasites are treatable. It is best to go to a veterinarian in order to treat a worm infestation because treatment options depend on the type of worm. While there are certain home remedies, they are not guaranteed to work and they might even end up becoming a threat if done wrong.
Veterinary guidance on the right medication, right dosage, and at the right frequency is very important.
How can you prevent intestinal parasites?
Intestinal parasites are easy to prevent.
If your dog is taking monthly heartworm medication, he will be automatically protected from intestinal worms as well. That is because the heartworm medication also contain a broad range dewormer to protect your dog from many intestinal parasites along with heartworm.
If your dog has not been put on monthly parasite preventative medication, you should discuss with the veterinarian about how you can protect your dogs and family from intestinal parasites.
Also, before you bring a new pet in your house, it is extremely important to have them checked by your veterinarian so that they do not expose your other pets or family members to parasites.
Even though intestinal parasites are treatable, the best option is to protect your pets against parasites by keeping them on monthly parasite preventatives.
Also it helps to take your dog to the veterinarian at least once a year for check-up when a fecal examination will be performed.
An annual fecal testing is useful as it allows your veterinarian to diagnose intestinal parasites as they are able to detect microscopic eggs or spores in your dog’s stool.