Treating internal parasites

Checking your dog regularly for intestinal parasites is one of the less enticing aspects of dog ownership, but a very necessary one to be sure. It’s a dirty job, but it can be an important step in keeping your pet healthy and happy.

What to look for

There are a number of internal parasites that may decide to call your dog home. The four worms that might infect your dog are tapeworms, whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms. There are other protozoa that can affect your dog as well, and these include toxoplasma, giardia, and coccidia.

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from an internal parasite, the first step will be to identify the parasite with the help of your veterinarian. In order to find the most effective treatment for your dog, your vet will need to know precisely what he is dealing with.

Sometimes this can be easier said than done, due to the manner in which some parasites release their eggs. However, a definitive diagnosis will put you and your dog on the road to a proper solution.

One parasite of particular concern is one that you can detect at home. Tapeworms can be seen in your dog’s stools, looking like small pieces of rice. You may also see evidence of tapeworms around your dog’s anal area. If you see this symptom in your dog, remove these segments and place them in a sealed container for your veterinarian’s inspection.

The importance of regular vet exams

During the first year of your dog’s life, your veterinarian will probably request a number of fecal samples for testing. This process is important in keeping your puppy healthy, since it can be the quickest and most effective means of identifying intestinal parasites.

Adhere to your veterinarian’s schedule, and always bring in samples that are no more than twelve hours old. You might consider storing your sample in a cooler or refrigerator until you take it in to ensure the most accurate results.

Your veterinarian will examine these samples under a microscope to check for the eggs of various parasites. After your dog’s first birthday, an annual fecal sample should be sufficient, unless you suspect a problem.

Treatment and prevention

If your dog does end up with an internal parasite, treatment will begin only when the parasite has been accurately identified, since there are different treatments for different types of parasites. Sometimes more than one parasite will be involved, which means that more than one treatment may be necessary. Some types of parasites will also require treatment of your dog’s environment as well.

Most treatments for internal parasites only take a few days to complete. Your veterinarian will check your dog periodically throughout the treatment period and for a number of weeks afterward to ensure that the parasites are completely eliminated. You may be asked to bring in another fecal sample within three to four weeks after treatment is complete.

To prevent a recurrence of internal parasites, try to keep your dog away from areas where other animals have gone potty, since parasites are often transmitted through fecal matter. This may be hard to do if you take your dog to parks and the like, but if you can keep him out of some of the more, ahem, heavily trafficked areas, it’s a start. You can also talk to your veterinarian about preventative medications that you can give to your dog for certain types of parasites.

If you suspect that your pet might have an internal parasite, prompt care is the key to effective treatment. If you notice symptoms in your dog such as diarrhea, coughing, weight loss, a reduced appetite or a dry, unhealthy coat, you should contact your veterinarian for an examination.

Occasionally, a healthy pet will not show signs of parasites right away, which is why an annual examination is so important. But staying on top of any strange symptoms that your dog might exhibit will go a long way in keeping your pet healthy and happy.

Source: Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association