Yuck! Common Dog Parasites

Dog at Veterinary Clinic

Yep, they are as gross as they sound and a little prevention can go a long way to keeping your dog healthy and parasite free. There are some common parasites that infect dogs both internally and externally. Externally, parasites such as ticks, fleas and ear mites can attach to your pet and transfer disease to them. Internally, hookworm, roundworm, heartworm and tapeworm are common. The good news is that a little prevention can go a long way in keeping your dog happy, healthy and parasite free.


Different regions of the country have greater concern for some parasites over others and the method of prevention may vary based on geographic location and climate. Typically, these common parasites can be easily prevented with a prescription medication that is either administered orally or topically. Because of the variation in parasites from region to region as well as the specific need for your pet, it is best to map out a preventative treatment plan from your veterinarian and stick to it. It is also important before beginning many courses of treatment to test for parasites.


Common External Parasites



Veterinarian Applying Tick MedicationMost of us are familiar with ticks and the danger that they pose – both to dogs and humans. They are small bugs that live off of the blood from animals. The tick’s bite and burrow into the skin. The danger comes in what the tick exchanges with its host when it bites – disease. These diseases, such as lyme disease, can be very serious and even life threatening, so prevention is very important. The most common preventative treatment for ticks is a liquid that is applied to the skin from the shoulders to the buttox. The normal movements and shaking of the dog spread the treatment throughout their coat killing and preventing ticks. Ticks can be very difficult to kill – they are tough to drown and smooshing them is difficult and if successful may spread disease. The best way to kill a tick is to drop it into rubbing alcohol.


Fleas are more than just fun critters for a make believe circus – they are rapidly reproducing home invaders! In fact, a female flea produces over 2,000 eggs in her short life span. Fleas are often carried into the home on an infected pet and then may spread throughout the house wherever the pet has walked or spent time. Like with ticks, the most common preventative treatment for fleas is a liquid that is applied to the skin from the shoulders to the buttox. Other treatments including special shampoos, sprays and powders.


Ear Mites
Ear mites are little critters that live off of the skin cells in a dog’s ear. They love the warm moist environment that a nice floppy ear creates and can lead to big problems – including bacterial and fungal infections, such as a yeast infection. Regular cleaning of the ears with a liquid air cleaner formulated for dogs is the best way to prevent ear mites. Treatment for infected ears typically involves a topical medication applied deep inside of the ear.


Common Internal Parasites


Vet Listening to Dogs LungsHookworm
Hookworms reside inside the small intestines and feed on the blood and tissue of the host dog. They are small, thin worms between a quarter and half an inch. Mothers can pass hookworms on to their babies. Dogs may also get them by eating an animal infected with hookworms or ingesting infested soil. Hookworms may also penetrate the pads of the feet to infect a dog. They are typically diagnosed through a stool sample – making an annual checkup extremely important.


A common parasite found in puppies is roundworm – a spaghetti shaped worm that can grow fairly long – up to 7 inches. They can live in the dog’s stomach as well as in the lungs as larvae. Like hookworm, roundworm are diagnosed by a stool sample.


Heartworms live in the right atrium and right ventricle of the heart and may spread to other organs if left untreated. They are acquired by a mosquito bite. Preventative medications can range from an oral medication to liquids and injections. The most common form of treatment is a soft chewable pill. Heartworms are typically diagnosed with a blood test.


Tapeworms live in the small intestines and can be as small as an inch to as large as several feet. To be infected, a dog must eat an infected animal or ingest a flea or louse carrying tapeworm eggs. Treatment is done with a deworming medication that kills the tapeworm.

Keeping an eye out for these common dog parasites and implementing the appropriate preventative care will ensure that both you and your pet are at their happy best.