What Kind of Parasites Can Dogs Get?
Common parasites affecting dogs include: roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Dogs do not contract pinworms. Rescue dogs, poorly nourished dogs, sick dogs, stressed dogs, and dogs with digestive problems are at highest risk for contracting parasites.
Roundworms (ascarids) are round, white to light brown, and can be up to 13 centimetres long. Roundworms are the most common parasite, especially in puppies including rescue puppies. Adult dogs ingest larvae from contaminated soil or from infected mice or other small mammals. Roundworms eggs are protected by a hard shell and can, therefore, exist in the soil several years.
Puppies can be born with roundworms if the larvae cross the placenta before birth. Nursing puppies can also ingest the larvae from milk. Puppies will have a pot-bellied appearance and poor growth. Roundworms live in the intestines and consume the food that the dog eats. Larvae can encyst to the liver and can also travel to the lungs causing respiratory symptoms and are then coughed up or swallowed again where they hatch out in the intestines. Roundworms can be seen in stool or vomit.
Hookworms are smaller than roundworms and are not usually seen in the stool or the vomit. The hookworm lives in the intestines and attaches itself to the intestinal membranes with sharp teeth and suck the host’s blood resulting in blood loss and anemia. They live and reproduce in the small intestine and, like roundworms, can encyst to the liver and/or travel to the lungs. Adult dogs can ingest or contact contaminated soil whereby the larvae can burrow through the skin or feet. Hookworms are also passed to puppies through nursing. Hookworms can be a common cause of illness in older dogs, resulting in low energy levels, weakness, poor immunity and weight loss. Unfortunately, we often erroneously blame these symptoms on old age.
Whipworms are wide at one end and taper off to a narrow head. They live in the large intestine where they bite the intestinal membranes and suck the host’s blood. They can cause bloody diarrhea in the dog but anemia is not as common as with hookworms. Whipworms are even smaller than roundworms and are also not often seen in the stool. However, the stool can be covered in mucus. Whipworms are also contracted from soil where they can lay dormant for years until consumed by a host. Whipworms can cause intermittent diarrhea and weight loss. They are difficult to detect in the stool since they shed very few eggs.
Tapeworms are long, flat worms that can grow up to 10 to 15 centimetres in length and attach themselves to the small intestine of the host. They consist of multiple segments that grow onto the head and neck of the worm. Each segment has a reproductive section. Dogs get tapeworms from ingesting fleas or eating animals such as rodents that are infested with fleas since tapeworm eggs develop inside the fleas. Tapeworm infections do not commonly cause observable symptoms but can appear as flat, rice-like segments around the anus. The tapeworm itself is still inside the intestines since it is not shed into the stool.
Heartworms are a variety of roundworm that are only spread by mosquitos, but not all mosquitos – only certain female mosquitos and under very specific conditions. The larvae slowly mature into worms as they migrate from the muscles to the pulmonary artery, heart, and lungs, a process which can take up 6 to 8 months. The heartworm lifecycle is very much dependent on temperature whereby the temperature has to be above 27°C (80°F) for over two weeks and over 14°C (57°F) for over six weeks. Thus, the only areas with a high incidence of heartworm is Florida and parts of Texas and Hawaii. And despite the hot temperatures in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia the incidence of heartworm there is relatively low. Symptoms may not appear for months until the heart is infected and can include coughing, fatigue, shortness of breath and poor immunity.
What Symptoms Does A Dog With Parasites Display?
Parasites do their damage by interfering with digestive function, robbing the host of nutrients, depressing the immune system, and intoxicating the system by excreting waste products and toxic chemicals such as ammonia, which affect the liver, kidneys and brain function.
Symptoms of parasitic infection can range from none whatsoever to mild to gravely ill. Common observable symptoms are: diarrhea, vomiting, pot bellies, coughing, increased appetite, weight loss, dull hair coat, fatigue, anxiety, and lack of focus or poor immunity. Other symptoms include heart abnormalities and anemia which further depresses the immune system predisposing them to more infections – parasites or otherwise. Symptoms can be a result of encysted larvae or adult worms.
Which Tests Are Available to Detect Parasites In Your Dog?
Roundworm and hookworm are detected by a fecal flotation test where the eggs can be observed and counted. However, the fecal flotation is not a reliable test for either whipworms or tapeworm nor for encysted larvae. Encysted larvae are larvae that have migrated to other organs and encapsulated. Larvae can migrate to any other tissues or organs where they encapsulate themselves until they hatch into adult worms. So dogs can have long-term problems with parasites despite negative test results.
The common test to detect heartworms involves checking a blood sample for worm protein; however, there is also a DNA test now available which is more accurate. If your dog lives in a high-risk area test for heartworms every 3 to 4 months. But do not be duped into giving your dog monthly preventative drugs for a lifetime. Despite the fear-mongering by the pharmaceutical industry, heartworms have a low incidence of killing dogs. But the drug industry has marketed to thousands of veterinarians (and, therefore, millions of dog owners) to convince them that all healthy dogs are at risk – even in low-risk areas – unless they use preventative medication. And this so-called preventative medication is an insecticide that kills larvae but can have multiple side effects including digestive symptoms and skin reactions. Chemical medications should always be kept to a minimum.
As with all intestinal diseases the best treatment of all parasites is prevention. Weaker, unhealthy dogs attract illness and parasites while healthy dogs with strong digestion and a strong immune system have a much greater resistance to all pathogens and parasites. A healthy intestinal immune system can destroy or eliminate parasitic larvae, including heartworm larvae, before they hatch out into mature worms or migrate into other organs. Research has also shown that a healthy colon ecosystem with healthy levels of probiotics can influence the lifespan of intestinal worms.
Natural Health Program for Dogs With Parasites
The best prevention is to build resistance by maintaining a strong intestinal immune system. This is accomplished with a healthy diet, regular cleansing, and well-selected supplements.
- Ensure that all meat that is fed is “clean” and free of bacteria and other contaminants.
- Be mindful of any food allergies and intolerances present in the diet that are continually straining the digestive processes and weakening the intestinal immune system. Avoid all foods which contain wheat or corn gluten.
- Add fresh vegetables every day for extra fibre and roughage. Many vegetables are also a natural prebiotic – prebiotics help to produce more probiotics.
Supplement & Remedy Program
Give one dose daily for 2-3 weeks. Vitamin C helps to acidify the large intestine to increase parasite resistance and encourage the elimination of parasites and pathogens. It is a powerful immune nutrient and supports liver function.
Use the Para+Plus tincture to promote the resistance, expulsion, and the elimination of parasites. Para+Plus is also effective against yeast and bacteria. It is a natural detoxifier, cleanser, and nutritional supplement that supports liver function and a strong immune system.
Pro-Colon is a blend of live prebiotics and probiotics for intestinal support and healthy digestion. Probiotics discourage the growth of parasites, unfriendly bacteria and yeast. It promotes optimum absorption of nutrients and maintains a healthy intestinal immune system. Pro-Colon is kept refrigeration to ensure maximum potency
- Pumpkin seeds, crushed [one teaspoon for every 4.5 kilograms of bodyweight ] – Pumpkin seeds are a natural anti-parasitic, and are a source of fibre and essential fatty acids to support digestive health.
See the product links for recommended dosages by weight.
As so often said, the best treatment for all diseases and health conditions is prevention. The same is true for parasites. A healthy digestive system, a strong intestinal immune system, good nutrition, a clean diet, regular exercise, and good quality herbal supplements to regularly detoxify and cleanse your dog will ensure that s/he maintains a low-risk lifestyle that prevents parasites, yeast, bacteria, and many other intestinal diseases.