What You Need To Know About Parasites In Dogs

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parasites in dogs

There are a whole bunch of parasites that can live in or on your dog, eating his food or using his body to keep themselves alive in ways that negatively impact him.

In most cases, parasites are super tiny — or even microscopic — and can infect your dog pretty easily. Some only cause minor issues, while others can be life-threatening.

That’s why it’s so important to know everything you can about the different parasites in dogs. Consider this your go-to guide.

JUMP TO: How dogs get parasites | Symptoms of parasites in dogs | Parasite treatment for dogs

Types of dog parasites

There are a bunch of types of dog parasites, and each one affects your dog differently.

Dog parasites fall under three main categories: internal, external and intestinal parasites.

Internal parasites in dogs

The most common internal parasites are heartworms. These invasive parasites live in your dog’s pulmonary artery and can get pretty long.

Since they’re right there in your pup’s heart, heartworms can cause super serious and even life-threatening complications. Plus, heartworm treatment is complicated, expensive and painful, but the good news is the disease is super preventable with regular medication.

External parasites in dogs

External parasites can often be found on your dog’s skin or in his hair.

Common types of external dog parasites include fleas, ticks and mites. Fleas and ticks will bite your dog and feed on his blood, causing irritation and sometimes more serious diseases. Mites — like mange, for example — can affect your pup’s skin and fur, resulting in things like itching or fur loss.

Intestinal parasites in dogs

Intestinal parasites that can affect your dog are often parasitic worms that live in their gastrointestinal systems.

Common intestinal parasites include:

  • Roundworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Hookworms
  • Whipworms

Since these parasites affect your dog’s intestines, they can cause your pup to vomit, lose weight or have diarrhea. But luckily, these can usually be treated with a prescription dewormer.

There are also some intestinal parasites that aren’t worms, like coccidia, giardia and spirochetes.

How dogs get parasites

Dogs can get parasites a few different ways.

There are some parasites your pup can only get through a specific host, like certain types of insects. Your dog might get other parasites through ingesting the insects’ eggs or larvae, which are often found in an infected pup’s poop or contaminated soil.

Here’s how your dog can get common parasites:

  • Heartworms: from mosquitos
  • Roundworms: from infected poop, nursing milk and placenta
  • Tapeworms: from fleas
  • Hookworms: from infected-poop-contaminated soil
  • Whipworms: from infected-poop-contaminated soil

Parasites humans can get from dogs

Humans can actually get some parasites from dogs. These parasites include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, giardia and mange.

Maintaining good personal hygiene and cleaning up after your dog when he goes to the bathroom are effective ways to make sure you don’t pick up any parasites from your pup.

Symptoms of parasites in dogs

The symptoms of parasites in dogs will look different depending on which parasite has infected your pup.

If your dog has a parasite, he might show signs like:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Weight loss

However, some parasites don’t cause any visible symptoms at all, like:

  • Heartworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Roundworms

Parasite treatment for dogs

If your dog has a parasite, the type of treatment you use will depend on which parasite you’re dealing with.

Dewormers for dogs

Dewormers for dogs are used to treat internal and intestinal parasites. Some dewormers can also be used as preventatives for other parasites, like fleas, ticks and heartworms.

Make sure you always consult your vet before starting your dog on any medication, including dewormers.

Antiparasitic shampoo for dogs

You might’ve heard about antiparasitic shampoo for dogs, but proceed with caution. Often, antiparasitic dog shampoo isn’t actually an effective way to protect your pup, and could even irritate his skin.

There are plenty of flea and tick shampoos on the market, and if you really want to give them a go, you should absolutely consult your vet to discuss efficacy and risks (there are, however, other types of topical flea and tick medications that are vet recommended).

So there you have it! Now you know how to identify, treat and even prevent some of the most common parasites in dogs. As long as your pup’s on preventatives and you’re keeping your environment sanitary, you and your pup will have a good chance at staying healthy and parasite-free.