Intestinal parasites are a potential problem for all dogs, and owners must be diligent in monitoring for symptoms. The most common parasites are hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm, and the protozoa Giardia. These are generally passed through eating dog feces. Keep an eye out for these tell-tale signs of infection and treat your dog immediately.
Here are the 9 most-common symptoms of parasites in dogs:
Diarrahea and soft stool in dogs and canine diarrhea can be the result of parasites and worms. In addition to diarrhea, dogs with hookworms may have bloody stool. The parasite protozoa giardia grows and multiplies in the dog’s small intestine, causing severe diarrhea. Dehydration is a major health concern for dogs suffering from diarrhea, so keep an especially close eye on this symptom of parasites.
A dog vomiting is not always a clear symptom, but one to keep in mind. Look for roundworm in your dog’s vomit. Puppies are especially vulnerable to infection and can be weakened or even die from parasitic bodies. Vomiting is generally present in a heavy hookworm infection.
3. Low Energy
Dogs with lower than normal energy level may indicate an infection. Is your once playful puppy slowing down and needing more naps? She may have been passed a parasite from her mother. Puppies are also more prone to eating feces and infecting themselves.
A number of parasites migrate from the intestinal track into the lungs and can cause a light cough in dogs. This can be mistaken for kennel cough, which is not caused by a parasite. Hookworm has a complicated lifecycle which involves larva hatching in the lungs, being coughed up, and being re-swallowed by a dog where they burrow and grow. The cough will be present at this time.
5. Pot-belly appearance
Is your puppy slow to grow and demonstrating a pot-bellied appearance? These are typical symptoms of canines that were born in unsanitary conditions and were infected from birth.
6. Change in appetite
Many dogs with a parasite infection may not show many outward signs, but change in appetite is another one to observe. Some pups can run a fever as well.
Especially in puppies, weight loss is a problematic symptom in dogs with infections, especially giardia. Weigh your dog often and note any changes for your veterinarian.
8. Dull coat
Is your dog’s once once-lustrous coat now taking on a dull appearance? This could be an early sign of an intestinal parasite.
9. Worms in dog fur or dog poop
Often the most obvious way to diagnose a parasitic worm infection is to bring your veterinarian a visible worm collected from your dog’s stool. Your vet will examine and test the sample for the visible worms and for any invisible infections as well, like giardia. A good vet will use a number of testing methods to get a clear picture of all infectons and advise an appropriate treatment.
What should I do?
Is your dog exhibiting any of these symptoms of parasitic worm or other infection? Immediately call your trusted veterinarian and take action. Some infections, especially hookworms can cause permanent damage to a dog’s intestinal lining. Others like tapeworm may be more benign, but may make your dog lose energy and less playful.
What will my veterinarian do?
Typically a veterinarian will run a fresh, direct smear test to look for giardia and other protozoa living in high numbers. Unfortunately this test is poor at detecting worms. A fecal floatation test suspends a stool sample in solution and then tested. These simple tests are easy and affordable, generally in the $20-30 range.
If a parasite is detected, the vet will typically administer a course of Pyrantel Pamoate (brandname Strongid, Nemex) to clear the infection. Afterward a monthly preventative with brand names Hartgard or Sentinel should keep your dog healthy and parasite-free.
How did my dog get a parasite like hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm, giardia?
The great majority of dogs are believed to contract hookworm by eating the larva hatched on the ground. Dog waste can contain millions of eggs or small larva and can live several days in a cool, moist conditions. That’s why it’s imperative to collect and remove dog waste on a regular basis.
A female hookworm will pass hundreds of eggs in the stool of their canine hosts, where they will remain alive for several weeks. A dog can potentially simply step in waste, and later, when grooming their feet, accidentally ingest the active parasite egg. The larvae may also directly burrow through the skin and migrate to the intestine where it continues its lifecycle.
What else can I do to prevent parasite infection?
Keep your lawn clear of clutter and lawn mowed short. Worms and creatures grow freely in lawn grass and under leaves. A well-tended lawn and sunshine is all that’s needed to kill most giardia and hookworm eggs that have a thin shell. Remember, if your yard is unfenced a neighbor or stray animal can leave droppings on your lawn and spread infection too.
Do you want a safer and cleaner lawn for your dogs and family? Sign up with Pet Domestic pet waste removal and get more peace of mind.
ASPCA. Coprophagia (Eating Feces). 2015. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/coprophagia-eating-feces
VCA Hospitals. 2015. https://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/hookworm-infection-in-dogs/785