Creepy, Crawly, but Controllable – Intestinal Parasites

Nearly every young puppy has some type of intestinal parasite. Most parasites are transmitted from mother to puppy, but others can come from fecal matter, infected soil, or eating small animals which are infected. Since puppies love to get into anything they can get their paws on, parasites can spread among them like wildfire.

Most infections can be diagnosed through a fecal examination during which the veterinarian looks at a slide of treated fecal matter under a microscope for parasite eggs. Because each parasite sheds its eggs at different times, veterinarians recommend doing several fecal examinations within a puppy’s first few months. Following the last of these initial puppy exams, you should continue with check ups once a year, or whenever the pup has gastrointestinal upset.

This is a brief description of common parasites in puppies, how they spread, and how you can identify when your pup -may be infected:
Roundworms are transmitted from mother to puppy, via feces or soil where roundworm eggs are present, or when a dog eats an infected rodent. When passed, these worms look like wet spaghetti noodles. They cause diarrhea, vomiting, and bloody stool. Pups who demonstrate these symptoms should be taken to a veterinarian right away to rule out more serious issues.
Hookworms can be transmitted through feces-to-mouth contact, from mother to puppy, or when a puppy’s skin comes in contact with infected fecal matter. This infection can become quite serious because it causes blood loss.
Whipworms cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration, which can lead to further complications. Whipworms spread through the feces of an infected dog or via contact with infected soil.

Tapeworms are caused primarily by ingesting fleas or eating an animal that has a tapeworm infection. Signs and symptoms of a tapeworm infection are passing worm segments in the stool, lethargy, gastrointestinal upset, and, in severe cases, intestinal blockage. Tapeworm eggs are rarely seen in fecal examinations.
Coccidia are single-celled organisms that cause watery or bloody diarrhea. As a result, the dog may suffer from dehydration and other effects that make this infection serious to very young puppies. Coccidia is transmitted through infected fecal matter or eating a rodent that has the infection.
Giardia infection triggers diarrhea, gastrointestinal upset, and immune system vulnerability. Most giardia infections develop after a pup has consumed water contaminated with the protozoan, such as water found in stagnant lakes or ditches. Veterinarians can usually diagnose the infection after a fecal examination, and can prescribe medication to rid the pup of the disease. However, as a precaution, you can give your dog a vaccination against this parasite if indicated.

Although do-it-yourself remedies are available, you should not attempt to treat your puppy yourself. If you think your puppy has intestinal parasites, contact your vet for an examination.

by Rachelle Boatright