Pet Health

Puppies and Parasites: What You Need to Know

Did you recently adopt a new puppy? Take a look at everything you need to know about parasites and deworming your dog.

What Are Common Canine Parasites?

Parasites are problems for many canine companions. This means your dog may have a parasite at some point in their lifetime. From external parasites to internal ones, these pet-infesting pests live on or in your dog.

Along with the common external pests, such as fleas and ticks, canine internal parasites include heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms.

How Can a Puppy Contract a Parasite?

A new puppy may come to your home already infected with a parasite. A mother dog can pass roundworms on to her puppies. This means your pup’s parasitic infection started before birth. Due to this mode of transmission, newborn puppies should have a vet checkup and possibly a deworming treatment.

Other parasites are acquired through food — especially wild-caught birds or animals. A dog can also possibly contract a parasite from the environment. Hookworm larvae and whipworms may live in the soil your puppy digs in.

What Are the Signs of a Parasitic Infection?

How do you know if your puppy has a parasite? Some internal parasites will not cause noticeable symptoms. Even though heartworms can cause serious health issues for a dog, these parasites often go unnoticed — until a vet tests for the worms. The worms, which, as the name implies, affect the dog’s heart, may also cause coughing, fatigue, or a weak pulse.

Other parasitic worms may affect the dog’s digestive system. Symptoms of hookworm and other similar digestive tract parasites may include the presence of the worms in the dog’s stool, diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration, vomiting, or weight loss.

How Does the Vet Diagnose a Parasitic Infection?

The method of diagnosis depends on the type of worm or parasite. The vet can use a blood test to look for a heartworm infection. But this type of test will not work for other parasites. Some worms, such as tapeworms, are easy to spot in the dog’s stool. Others are not though, so a microscopic exam of the feces is the best diagnostic tool. The vet may ask you to bring a stool sample or take a sample from your puppy during their in-office appointment.

The earlier the vet finds and diagnosis the infection, the better your pup’s chances are for a full recovery. An early discovery is vital for puppies and dogs with a heartworm infection. This type of parasite can cause serious or life-threatening problems if left untreated. Again, do not expect to see heartworms in your dog’s stool. They will need a blood test, and possibly an echocardiogram, for diagnosis.

How Can a Vet Treat a Parasitic Infection?

Like testing, treatment is based on the specific parasite. Prevention is the first-choice option. But if your dog does have an infestation, the vet may prescribe an oral medication to destroy the worms. Your puppy may need multiple rounds of deworming medication. One round can destroy the adult worms, while another takes care of any remaining eggs or larvae.

Your puppy may need a deworming treatment during their first vet visit. The possibility of mother-to-puppy infection (for some types of parasites) makes immediate deworming a necessity to keep some dogs healthy. Discuss the options with the vet during your puppy’s initial office appointment.

Heartworm treatment is often more complex than what you should expect for other types of parasites. Instead of one oral medication, your pup may need a series of injections, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Your dog will also have activity restrictions during treatment.

Does your puppy need a well check, office visit, or deworming treatment? Contact 1st Pet Veterinary Centers for more information.