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Intestinal Parasites of Dogs

Dog worms are one of the most detrimental things to a dog's overall health. Not only can worms eat away at the intestines, but they can also consume nutrients from  the animal. Worms are dangerous no matter where they are located throughout a dog's body; yet when worms target the heart, they cause the eventual shutdown of  organs relying on the heart for blood and oxygen. The cycle of dog worms is a vicious one and one of the best ways that a dog owner can combat them is to be aware of the different types of worms that dogs are susceptible to getting.

Intestinal worm checks are tests done on a dog's bowel movement to see if there are any worm eggs present in the dogs' body. In Michigan, we see Hookworms, Roundworms, Whipworms, Coccidia, Tapeworms, Giardia and Cryptosporidium.


Hookworms can be spread through a dog's feces or can penetrate the dog's skin, or travel through the milk to nursing puppies. They attach to a dog's intestines to feed on the blood. Hookworms can cause major blood loss which is sometimes fatal to puppies. The baby stage of hookworms are called sandworms. These baby worms can penetrate the skin of people and migrate under the skin causing a human health hazard.


Roundworms can be spread for mother to puppies or through soil that has eggs in it. They can cause bloated bellies and diarrhea and vomiting. Roundworms can be transmitted to people also and can cause some serious health problems relating to loss of sight.

Whipworms can cause diarrhea, weight loss and dehydration. They are very hard to detect and also to eliminate. Whipworms do not lay eggs very often so they can be overlooked during the worm checks performed by a veterinarian. Whipworm infection is transmitted by ingesting eggs that live in the soil. Once inside the host, the eggs hatch into larvae that travel to the large intestine and embed their long, whiplike tail into the intestinal wall. The larvae mature, mate, and lay eggs, which pass through the feces and into the soil.

Coccidia are protozoans living in your dog's intestinal tracts. Most dogs have a certain immunity to its effects; however, puppies, stressed dogs and those with their immune systems suppressed may sometimes display symptoms of coccidiosis.

Tapeworms in Dogs: There is only one way that a dog can contract an infection from tapeworms; by eating an infected flea. Fleas are notoriously known for carrying the eggs of tapeworms. So, when a dog has a flea infestation, or maybe just a few fleas, he is susceptible to contracting tapeworms. All that a dog has to do is lick his body while grooming and if he ingests a flea, the possibility of having tapeworms becomes very real.

Giardia is a protozoan parasite that lives in the intestine of affected animals. It is unclear whether there are several species of this parasite or whether there is one species that affect several different animals, including people. These small parasites are very easy to miss on a fecal exam and may not be present in the stool of animals infected with the organism. Repeated fecal exams are sometimes necessary to identify this parasite. This disease may be contagious to people from infected dogs so good sanitary practices, like washing your hands after handling an infected puppy, are very important.

Cryptosporidium are a protozoan parasite that affects rodents, dogs, calves, humans and cats. Infection with this parasites is known as Cryptosporidiosis. It can be a primary disease, or it can occur as a secondary infection in dogs with weakened immune systems. Cryptosporidiosis usually occurs in dogs younger than six months of age. Keep your dog isolated from other pets, children and individuals with compromised immune systems. Cryptosporidiosis is very contagious and can spread to cats, rodents and calves as well as people. People suffering from HIV or AIDS are at the highest risk for cryptosporidiosis


Heartworm Parasites

Heartworms are very dangerous because they can actually kill the dog. In addition, it can be as long as nine months from the time your dog becomes infected till the heartworms become adults and a threat to your dog’s life. The scary part is that during this time you will not know the dog has become infected. This is why heartworms are often called “the invisible killer.” Heartworm disease is diagnosed through blood test

Prevention of heartworm disease is very simple. Heartworm preventative for dogs is usually started between 2-3 months of age and the preventative is given once each month for life.. Since heartworms are spread by mosquitoes which are prevalent in Michigan. Heartworms are the most life threatening parasite dogs can have. The microfilia (baby heartworms) are deposited in the dog's body by a mosquito bite. These baby worms grow and move to the heart where the damage to your pet's health is done. Symptoms of heartworms do not show up sometimes for years. but early tests performed by your veterinarian will diagnose the disease before much damage is done. Your dog should be on the medication every month for life with once yearly testing to make sure the preventative is doing it's job. For more info:
Canine Heartworm Animation (Courtesy from Merial)

How to Prevent  internal  Worm Infestations:

 The best way to prevent your dog from contacting any kind of worm is to take it in for an annual exam. While you’re there, you can ask your vet to recommend a broad-spectrum preventive products. The newest of these products will protect your dog against heartworms, roundworms, whipworms, and even fleas.

Be sure to keep your dog flea free as it only through fleas that your dog can contact tapeworms.

Try not to expose your dog to stray animals or wildlife, as they often carry fleas and other parasites. Also, it’s a good idea to keep your dog away from dog parks that are not well maintained, as these can be a source of parasites

Keep your dog from eating animal carcasses, such as those of birds, rodents and rabbits. These carcasses can carry immature worms that then mature into adult worms after your dog ingests them.

Don’t let your dog eat feces that are either his own or from other dogs or animals.

Inspect your dog’s anus and feces regularly and look for signs of tapeworms. As indicated above, tapeworm segments are small, wide and flat and resemble grains of rice.

Finally, have your veterinarian check the dog’s stool specimen when it has its annual checkup.

As you can see, there are a number of parasites that can infect your dog. This makes it doubly important that you take your dog in for a regular check up as this is the only way to make sure it remains parasite free.


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