Parasite Prevention in your Pets

It is a fact that parasites of all kinds are attracted to your dog. After all, what’s not to love? Your pet provides a warm, furry environment, as well as a public transportation system for the host. In the summer, when we all spend more time outdoors, parasites tend to come out in force, hungry and looking for a cozy home. Your dog may just provide the perfect spot for the critters to settle down and dig in–quite literally. Treating these pests is important for the health and comfort of your pet, and some parasites can also be passed onto the human members of the family, making it even more essential that we keep these creatures at bay.

Fleas and Ticks and Mites, Oh My!

These tiny bugs fall into the category of ectoparasites, meaning they live on or just under your dog’s skin. If your pet is suffering from an infestation of fleas, you can be fairly confident that those critters are residing in your home and yard as well. While fleas are hard to see, you will most definitely detect evidence of them through your dog’s scratching and biting. Occasionally, you may see tiny, wingless brown spots moving quickly across his skin’s surface. Hello, fleas!

If your dog has the misfortune of suffering from a flea allergy, the saliva from the bites of these critters will cause inflammation and irritation. If you see your pet acting as though he has fleas, you will want to address the problem as soon as possible to avoid further complications. However, dipping your dog in a flea-fighting solution can be a toxic treatment for your pet, so check with your veterinarian to determine the safest and most effective flea treatment for your pooch.

Getting Rid of Ticks

Ticks are another parasite that commonly affect dogs, particularly during the summer season. While you can find these critters in almost any environment, their favorite spots are warm, grassy and wooded. Certain types of tick bites can be quite harmful to your dog, causing symptoms like irritation, hypersensitivity, skin damage, and anemia. Ticks can also carry diseases with them, like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne fever, and Lyme disease. These diseases can be dangerous to your pet if left untreated, which is why you should call your veterinarian right away if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.

All of these tick-borne diseases can cause your dog to become feverish and lethargic. Your pet may also stop eating, which is a sure sign of a problem. Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tick-borne fever can also cause a cough, labored breathing, and discharge from the eyes and nose. Lyme disease brings depression, arthritis, and lameness as well. Any of these symptoms warrant a trip to the veterinarian right away, since prompt treatment is extremely important to the health of your pet in these cases.

If you spend a day in the woods with your dog, make sure to check his skin when you get home for signs of a tick. If you discover one of these critters, there are some methods for removing it that will avoid further damage and pain to your pooch. First, do not use the match treatment that has been commonly thought to be effective in this process. You will stand a much greater chance of burning your pet’s skin than removing the tick. Instead, rub an alcohol swab around the area and gently pry the tick away with tweezers, holding close to the head. Never flush a live tick down your toilet unless you want him to come back up and bite you in the you-know-where! Instead, place the tick in a sealed jar with some alcohol to get rid of it once and for all.

Mighty Mites

The type of mite that most pet owners are familiar with is the ear mite. These little guys leave a brown or black crust on the outer ear, and create an irritation that your dog will try to fight by biting and scratching his ear area. Scabies are another type of mite that can infect your pet. Scabies burrow just under the skin’s surface, where they will lay eggs and cause intense itching and irritation. Scabies are highly contagious parasites, so if you suspect that your dog has them, get him to the veterinarian right away before these critters spread. In fact, all types of mites are best treated by your vet.

Internal Parasites

It is not at all unusual for a puppy to have an internal parasite of one type or another. The problem is that these parasites can affect how effectively your puppy’s body can absorb nutrients, and ultimately affect the healthy growth and development of your dog. Tapeworms are one of these internal parasites, and these are often passed onto your dog via fleas or by eating rodents. If your pet seems overly interested in his anal region it is a good idea to check it and his stools for signs of a rice-like substance which could signal a tapeworm infection.

Another type of internal parasite is the hookworm, and these will attach themselves to your dog’s intestinal wall. You will see evidence of these parasites through dark or bloody diarrhea. Whipworms can cause similar symptoms in your pet, so if you see unusual stools in your backyard, take your dog to the vet for analysis. Roundworms are easy to detect in your dog’s stool because they resemble strands of spaghetti. This type of internal parasite is easily transferred to humans, and can cause serious complications in people, including blindness.

Keep that Parasite Away!

Most of us know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but how do we prevent parasites? One way is to protect yourself from the neighborhood cat that may roam at will and use your children’s sandbox or your garden as his personal litter box. Keep that sandbox covered when the kids are not using it, and always wear gloves when gardening. Make a point of washing your hands whenever you come in from outside.

As far as your dog is concerned, an annual inspection of his stool by your veterinarian will help keep your pet worm-free. You can also give your dog an annual heartworm medication that may be effective against a variety of worms as well. It is also important to keep an eye on your dog and take him to the vet if you detect symptoms like scratching his ears, scraping his bottom, losing his appetite or passing diarrhea. Any other sign that your pet is simply not feeling like himself deserves a trip to the vet as well. By staying on top of your dog’s health, you will go far in preventing parasites and keeping the rest of your family healthy as well.

Source: Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association