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I know this is a stupid question to ask, but how do dogs get worms?
Licking. Eating. Touching. Walking where other dogs have been and defecated.
For instance, roundworm eggs are very sticky and sturdy. If you walk your
dog on the same path as an infected dog, your dog's foot may pick an egg up.
They groom and lick their paw and thus the egg is ingested. Fleas carry
tapeworm. Moquitoes carry heartworm.
External and Internal Parasites
Ahh, summer: fresh-cut grass, birds in the trees, burgers on the
grill, and of course, pesky parasites. With the advent of a new season, it's
important to take precautions to either prevent or treat parasite
infestation in pets. Parasites not only affect our furry friends, but also
can be passed on to us.
What makes pets such a prime target for parasites? Animals
provide the perfect living environment. Blood, sweat, and tears isn't just a
rock band from the 60's--to the parasite, they're a three-course lunch. Pet
hair also is a warm, protective environment and a means of transportation to
The most common little buggers having a party at your pets'
expense are ectoparasites--fleas, ticks and mites--which live on or burrow
into their hosts' skin. Fleas are particularly pesky, since they not only
infest your pet, but also can take over your home. The good news is that
they're fairly easy to spot--you'll probably notice your pet's discomfort
and scratching right off. You may even see fleas in his fur. Fleas are small
(a little more than one millimeter), wingless, brown, and fast moving.
Some dogs and cats also can be allergic to fleas' saliva, which
causes their skin to become inflamed. In addition, if the fleas carry
pathogens, cats may easily become infected because they ingest about 50
percent of the fleas on their coats while grooming.
If your pet has fleas, your first thought might be to try an
old-fashioned flea dip. But these dips can be highly toxic, inducing severe
side effects like vomiting, fever, seizures, coma, and possibly death.
Instead of dipping your dog or cat, you can easily apply a drop to your
pet's skin that will kill fleas and prevent adults from laying eggs. Your
veterinarian can suggest safe, effective products for your pet.
Another common parasite, especially during the summer months, is
the tick. Ticks can be found looking for a free ride almost anywhere in most
climates, though they prefer to hang out in wooded, damp, and grassy areas
before attaching themselves to your pet. Some tick bites may be harmless;
others can cause anemia, skin damage, irritation, and hypersensitivity.
Some of the most common diseases transmitted by tick bites are
Lyme disease, tick-borne fever, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If
untreated, these diseases can cause severe health problems and can be fatal.
So what are some of the signs of a tick-borne disease? Common
symptoms of Lyme disease are arthritis, lameness, depression, and loss of
appetite. Tick-borne fever can cause weakness, a cough, labored breathing,
fatigue, and discharge from the nose or eyes. The symptoms of Rocky Mountain
spotted fever are similar to those of tick-borne fever. Or more generally,
you may find that your pet isn't eating and is lethargic, depressed, and
feverish. If any of these symptoms occur, it's imperative that you take your
ailing buddy to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
The best preventative is to check your pet's skin and fur after
spending a day in the woods, at the local lake, or even in your own
backyard. If you try removing a tick the wrong way, though, you could hurt
your friend. Don't try to burn it off with a match. The smell of the smoke
won't make the tick loosen its grip, and the match could burn your furry
companion. An alcohol swab rubbed or placed around the area may help loosen
the kung fu grip of the tick. Using tweezers, grab the tick as close to the
head as possible and slowly pull it out. If you flush the tick down the
toilet before killing it, there is no promise that it won't crawl back up at
an inopportune time. The best way to kill a tick is to place it in a sealed
jar with alcohol.
It might be a mite
Another critter to watch for is the mite. Lots of pet owners are
familiar with ear mites. If you notice your pet scratching his ear intensely
or biting himself, he could have ear mites. These pests also leave a brown
or black crust on the outer ear.
Another type of mite is scabies. After burrowing into your pet's
skin, scabies mites lay eggs. Once they hatch, the larvae feed on your pet's
skin and release a secretion that causes severe itching. Take your pet to
the veterinarian immediately if you suspect scabies mites, because they are
highly contagious, and the excessive scratching they cause can lead to
When treating mites, your best bet is to take your pet to your
veterinarian rather than to try an at-home remedy or an over-the-counter
medicine that may not be effective.
Crawling in and crawling out
Almost all puppies and kittens have some type of internal
parasite lurking in them, feeding on the blood and protein of its hosts.
These parasites can affect your pet's ability to absorb nutrients, and
without treatment, they can potentially damage the lining of the intestinal
The most common internal parasites are tapeworms, hookworms,
whipworms, and roundworms. Tapeworms can be passed onto your pet through
fleas, which sometimes carry this parasite in its larval stage. Outside pets
also can get them by eating infected rodents. If you find your pet is
constantly licking his anal area, your best bet is to visually inspect the
area and his stool for bits of tapeworm, which look like rice.
Hookworms attach themselves to your pet's intestinal lining,
causing bloody or dark diarrhea. Whipworms, which can be found in the large
intestine, also can cause diarrhea. If you notice blood in your pet's stool,
collect a sample to take into your veterinarian, because the worms and eggs
are only visible by microscope.
Last, but of course not least, is the roundworm, which lives in
the small intestine. These worms may cause vomiting and resemble strands of
spaghetti in your pet's stool. They are easily transmitted to humans,
especially children, and can cause serious human health problems, including
An ounce of prevention
How can you protect your family and pet from these common
parasites? If your children enjoy playing in the sandbox, remember that the
neighborhood cat might, too. If the sandbox has become his litter box, your
children run the risk of contracting roundworms through fecal-oral
transmission. Children are more prone to roundworm, but avid or amateur
gardeners also need to beware. That neighborhood cat may be using your
garden for his litter box as well. The best preventatives are to cover up
the sandbox, wear gloves when gardening, and constantly wash your hands
after being outside.
Collecting a stool sample each year and taking your pet to your
veterinarian will help ensure that he is worm free. Most heartworm medicines
now contain a preventative for whipworm, roundworm, and hookworm, so be sure
to follow your veterinarian's recommended dosages.
In addition, pay close attention to your pet. If you notice your
furry companion scraping his bottom on the carpet, scratching his ears,
vomiting, passing diarrhea, turning up his nose at the food bowl, or just
not being himself, take the hint that something is wrong and schedule an
appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Parasites can be a problem
any time of the year, but a few preventative measures will protect the
health of all of your loved ones.
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