|The “Skinny” About Canine Internal Parasites
Internal parasites (“worms”) are a very common finding in the dog and the cat. Some parasites are passed from the mom to the puppy or kitten, while others are obtained through the ground, through contact with feces of other animals, or by ingestion of insects or small mammals. The more common internal parasites are described here:
Hookworms - Dogs get hookworms either through skin penetration from the ground or through mother’s milk. At low worm burdens, your dog may fail to gain weight, have an unhealthy haircoat and loose stools. As the worm burden grows, your dog can develop a bloody diarrhea that can become life-threatening.
HOOKWORMS ALSO INFECT HUMANS – They can penetrate the skin and migrate through the skin layers, which would require medical treatment. Small children, who tend to have closer contact with dogs and like to run barefoot, are most susceptible to infection.
Roundworms – Most puppies are born with roundworms already in their system because the parasite is passed from mom to puppy. Infection also occurs through ingestion of fecal material from an infected dog. Roundworms can multiply rapidly in your dog’s intestinal tract, causing digestive problems (vomiting, diarrhea) and possibly an intestinal blockage.
ROUNDWORMS ALSO INFECT HUMANS- People, especially young children, can have accidental ingestion of roundworm eggs when fecal material comes in contact with hands or other surfaces that touch the mouth. This parasite can migrate into the abdominal organs and eyes, which would require aggressive medical treatment.
Whipworms - Dogs ingest whipworm eggs from the soil. In low numbers, whipworms can cause chronic diarrhea and weight loss. In higher numbers, whipworms can cause a severe, sometimes bloody, diarrhea that can be life-threatening.
Tapeworms - Dogs get tapeworms primarily through ingestion of an infected flea, but can also become infected by catching and eating rabbits, other rodents or birds. Tapeworm segments look like small, flattened pieces of rice in the dog’s stool. They can cause a poor hair coat and can affect weight gain. The tapeworm eggs are rarely found on microscopic examination, therefore we depend on the pet owner to let us know when these worm segments are seen so we can treat accordingly.
Coccidia - Not a worm, but a tiny, single-celled protozoa that can only be seen through a microscope. This parasite gets ingested and multiplies in the lining of the intestines. As the coccidial population grows, a diarrhea develops which can become severe enough to cause bloody stool and life-threatening dehydration. Humans can get coccidia from an infected dog but it is uncommon.
When should your dog be checked or treated for intestinal parasites?
Puppies should be dewormed beginning at three weeks of age, then every three weeks thereafter until placed on monthly heartworm preventative with intestinal dewormer.
No medication prevents ALL of the parasites listed above, therefore your dog needs to be checked for intestinal parasites once a year, if you see worms in your dog’s stool, and when internal parasites are a suspected cause of illness.
Gilmer Animal Clinic 2108 SH 155 N Gilmer, TX 75644 903-797-2744 Craig Ball, DVM