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Family Dog Health: Internal Parasites
Internal parasites are a microscopic threat to your family dog’s health. It is impossible to protect your dog from exposure to these parasites, but you can take preventive measures.
The newborn puppy is the usual victim of parasite infestation. Puppies can be infected with internal parasites in the womb, but also through mother’s milk. Therefore, a regular deworming schedule should be maintained for all puppies born, as well as for pregnant females. Worm treatments for mothers should begin on or before day 40 of their pregnancy and 2 days after birth (birth). Puppies should be wormed starting at two weeks, again at five, eight and twelve weeks of age. Young dogs should be wormed monthly up to six months and at three-month intervals up to 1 year. After 1, discuss worming treatments with your veterinarian. Treatments will vary based on your family dogs environment, activity levels, time spent outdoors, and the mosquito and flea population in your area.
If you are like me and have rescued a puppy as a stray or from a shelter, you may not have a history of worming treatments. You must assume that if there is no history available, that no treatment has begun. Take your puppy to the vet with a stool sample to test and start treatments.
Internal parasites cause no symptoms at all, or mild discomfort, but they can also cause diarrhea, vomiting, blood in faecal matter, dehydration, anemia, weight loss, apathy, cough, breathing problems, heart failure and death.
There are 2 types of internal parasites. WORMS and PROTOZOA. First we have to discuss worms
There are three subcategories of worms.
Nematodes includes Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. They are cylindrical and cream-colored worms.
Black worms are the most common form of worm infestation in dogs. Although it is mainly found in the intestines, they can chew through the intestinal wall and live in the lungs, blood, stomach and eyes. During a roundworm infestation, you are feeding the worms that are robbing your dog of nutrients. Symptoms of roundworm infestation include mild vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, poor hair and coat, a pot belly and sometimes a garlic smell on the dog’s breath. Your family dog can also pass worms like spaghetti in vomit and feces. The transmission of black worms is mainly through the uterus or mother’s milk, but it can also be contracted from contaminated soil.
Hookworms they feed on blood and are more common in hot humid climates. They are usually limited to the small intestine. In addition to mother’s milk, your dog can be infected with hookworm by eating the meat of another infected animal and through the pads of its feet or belly. Because they feed on blood, symptoms include dark red or bloody diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, weakness, and diarrhea.
Whip worms are the most difficult to diagnose because light infections rarely show symptoms and these worms do not produce many eggs to be detected in faecal matter. Whip worms are transmitted only by ingesting the eggs. These eggs are very hardy and can survive in any climate. These worms are reason enough to “pick up” after your pet and remove the faecal matter so that the soil is not contaminated with whipworm eggs. Whipworms also feed on blood and symptoms include weight loss and bloody diarrhea.
Cestodes or tapeworms have different types, but generally infect the same way. Tapeworms feed nutrients from your dog’s intestines. They grow forming long chains. Segments of these chains break off and pass through the dog’s feces. These broken chains can move and are full of eggs. They will look like grains of rice and can be seen crawling around your dog’s anus. Tapeworms can grow to several feet and are actually more annoying than life threatening. Symptoms may include a greater appetite, weight loss, poor coat and diarrhea. Tapeworms are also passed through an intermediate host. The four types are distinguished by the intermediate host from which our dogs can be infected. I will not bore you with the Latin names of each, but I will let you know how it is contracted. Ingestion of flies or lice, mice, rats, rabbits, freshwater fish, sheep, goats, cattle, deer, elk, fox or coyote. Hunting dogs or scavenging dogs are more likely to be infected with tapeworms. They are the deadliest of all parasitic worms.
Heartworms they are the deadliest of all parasitic worms. Heartworms are the only worm that is not ingested by your dog, but is transmitted by a mosquito bite. A mosquito bites and feeds on an infected dog. The microfilariae or larvae develop in the mosquito between 2-3 weeks. When the mosquito bites another dog, the larvae enter the wound and burrow under the dog’s skin. For the next 2-4 months, the larvae develop under the dog’s skin into immature worms that travel via the blood to the heart. The worms occupy the right side of the dog’s heart and develop into adults. The scary thing is that symptoms may not start to appear until 6-7 months after the initial infection. When the worms are in the heart, they start producing more larvae which means more worms.
Left untreated, your dog will die of heart failure. Symptoms include reduced exercise tolerance, mild coughing, weight loss, visible pulsation of blood flow in neck veins, fainting, sudden collapse and death. Heartworm treatments are expensive, dangerous and full of side effects. The risks versus benefits must be weighed. That being said, the best way to protect your dog is to protect him with preventative medicine.
Medicines for heart worms, prescribed by your veterinarian can be given annually, and is the preferred plan of action. These pills or chewables are given monthly and do not prevent the transmission of heartworms, but rather kill the immature worms before they have time to mature into adulthood. If it is not medicated throughout the year, the treatments should start one month before the mosquito season and continue until one month after the first winter freeze. Also keep dogs indoors, especially at dusk during mosquito season. If indoors is not an option, treat the dog’s coat with a natural mosquito repellent.
The great thing about heartworm medication is that it also kills most other worm parasites. An excellent argument for maintaining a heartworm medication plan all year round.
The second type of internal parasite is Protozoal parasites. Protozoa are microscopic one-celled animals. We know of at least 7 different species of protozoa. Because most of them cause little or no obvious signs of illness and are treated with antibiotics, we will only give a brief synopsis of each.
Transmitted through animal excrement
It infects the intestines
Symptoms are watery diarrhea that can become mucus-covered and blood-tinged, loss of appetite and dehydration.
Treat with antibiotics and antiprotozoal drugs
It is transmitted through water that is contaminated by wildlife
Usually there are no obvious signs of illness
Symptoms are persistent bulky and smelly stools
Treat with antibiotics and antiprotozoal drugs
Transmitted through raw or undercooked meat
Symptoms are fever loss of appetite, difficulty breathing and swollen abdomen
Treat with antibiotics
Known to transmit from mother to puppy in the womb via the placenta
This is an emerging disease that is not understood. The life cycle is not established.
Symptoms appear in puppies of 3-6 months. There are muscle and nerve conditions that range from lameness, sore muscles, muscle wasting and paralysis.
Drugs are being developed to treat this emerging disease.
Transmission by sand fly bites
The most serious infection is caused by the protozoa that causes the disease called Kala-Azar.
There are 2 types of this protozoa, the non-fatal skin form that causes scabs, dandruff and areas that can be discolored or ulcerated. And the almost always fatal visceral form that causes a loss of vigor, emaciated muscles, and damage to the liver and spleen. Even when treated, the outlook for the dog is not good. It usually results in death.
Transmitted by ticks
Symptoms include listlessness due to anemia and passing dark colored urine
The infection affects the red blood cells
Treated with antibiotics
It is transmitted through a blood-sucking insect called “kissing bugs”. The “kissing bug” defecates while feeding, resulting in itching. The host scratches and places feces in the wound.
Symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, loss of coordination, it can also affect the heart muscles.
There is currently no treatment for this infection.
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