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Dog Parasites: How to protect your family pet

Parasites in Dogs

If you have a dog, then you need to know about the different types of parasites that can affect your pets health. Dogs are the frequent victims of a number of internal parasites or worms such as roundworms, hookworms, and coccidia.

In most cases, early diagnosis and treatment of parasitic infections can prevent the development of any significant symptoms, but it is important to know what signs to look for.

Dog parasite infections may cause any or all of the following symptoms: diarrhea, weight loss, dull/dry hair, bloodly stools, and vomiting. Here is a closer look at the parasites that can affect your dog, and what you can do to keep him healthy.


The two species of roundworms that can infect dogs are Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina.

Roundworms are tan or white, and they range in length from two to five inches. If a dog is severely infected with these parasites, he may vomit these parasitic worms or pass them in his stool. The worms may be visually alarming as they look like a moving pile of spaghetti.

Roundworm infections can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, and uncomfortableness. If left untreated, roundworms can multiply to such great numbers that they can cause an intestinal blockage, which can ultimately, death. While death is an extreme circumstance, an intestinal blockage will definitely lead to a severe case of dog constipation. These dog parasites can also be transferred to humans where they can cause a disease called visceral larva migrans. This disease may result in inflammation of muscle tissue and blindness.


Hookworms are blood sucking intestinal worms that commonly infect dogs and humans. Ancylostoma caninium is the most common species of hookworm that is found in dogs.

Hookworms are small, thin parasites that can infect a dog that walks on contaminated soil or feces. The organism will then penetrate its skin. Once inside the dog’s body, hookworms will then fasten to the wall of the small intestine and suck blood.

These types of dog parasites are smaller than roundworms, and they cannot be seen by the naked eye, but they are easily detected by microscopic fecal examination.

In humans, hookworms can cause a type of dermatitis called cutaneous larva migrans or creeping eruption. Once inside the human body, hookworms may burrow under the skin causing a linear, itchy lesion.


A tapeworm is another type of dog parasite that can be detected visually with the naked eye. These harmful organisms are transmitted to dogs via the consumption of infected fleas or meat. They are long, flat parasites that attach themselves to the small intestines. As they reach maturity, segments of their bodies will break off and enter the digestive system until they are passed in the feces or urine.

A dog owner may notice these startling parasites on the dog’s anus or in his stools. Tapeworms are generally flat and white, reaching a length of about one-half inch. They may look like a grain of rice or a sesame seed. Tapeworms cannot be directly transmitted from dogs to humans. However, small children could accidentally ingest an infected flea and contract a tapeworm infection.


Whipworms, such as Trichuris vulpis are not visible to the naked eye, making them difficult to detect and diagnose. Unfortunately, this particular dog parasite is also the most difficult to eradicate and control. Symptoms of a whipworm infection include severe diarrhea, flatulence, weight loss, fatigue, and poor overall condition.

Parasites in Dogs


The dog parasite Isopora canis is a protozoan parasite, meaning that it is not a worm but a single-celled microscopic organism. Because it is so small, this parasite has relatively few nutrient needs, and it can therefore grow to great numbers in the canine body.

A coccidia infection may cause watery diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. In young puppies, or dogs with a weakened immune system, this parasite can cause diarrhea that is severe enough to be life threatening.

Preventing Dog Parasites

Good hygiene and proper preventative measures are the keys to keeping your dog “parasite-free.” Many species of parasites can infect dogs that come in contact with contaminated feces. So it is important to keep a close eye on any waste your dog produces, and remove it from the yard at least once a week.

If you suspect that your dog may have contracted a parasitic infection, consult your veterinarian immediately. One type of wormer may not be effective at treating all dog parasites. When you take your dog for a walk, try to keep him away from other animals’ feces, and be sure to remove any that your own dog may contribute. Be sure to wash your hands after handling your dog to avoid transmitting a parasitic infection from your dog to yourself.

by Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM

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