No matter how well you care for your pet, parasites can still be a problem. Even very clean animals can be born with intestinal worms. Any pet that goes outside is also at risk for heartworms (link to Heartworm page). This page has some basic facts about parasites.
Most parasites are easily diagnosed and treated by your vet. Please visit your vet immediately if you think your pet has a parasite. Also, be sure to take all new puppies to the vet. Medicines are cheap and easy to give. Treating parasites keeps your pets healthy and keeps you from getting sick, too.
Fleas are small and live off of animal blood. Over 90% of fleas are in the environment - in tall grass, bushes, or even your pet’s bedding. They lay eggs in your pet’s fur and can make them itchy and miserable. Many pets with fleas will scratch themselves until they bleed, which can cause infections. Some are allergic to fleas and will react strongly to even one bite. Fleas also spread tapeworms, an intestinal parasite we will talk about below.Small puppies and kittens can even bleed to death. Fleas will sometimes bite humans.
You can prevent fleas by trimming tall grass and treating your yard with outdoor flea sprays. Concentrate on damp, shady areas, like under bushes. Inside the house, you can also use sprays on beds and blankets that have flea. Applying skin medications like Frontline or Revolution will help control fleas that are on your dog.
Ear mites are small bugs that live inside pets’ ears. They can only be seen with a microscope, but they can make pets very unhappy. They cause itching and smelly dark wax. Some pets will shakes their heads a lot or scratch until they bleed. Your vet can diagnose ear mites and prescribe a medicine to clean the ears and kill mites.
This is a magnified picture of mites in the ear. You can see many mites, dark wax, and irritated skin.
Roundworms live in the digestive system and can spread from a mother to her kitter. Most puppies and kittens are born with roundworms. Pets also get roundworms from each other or from outside. Roundworms can cause diarrhea, weight loss, and other problems. In serious cases, a pet can get very sick, or even die. Humans can also get roundworms. In humans, the worms can travel to the organs or even the eyes. Luckily, roundworms are easily treated with most dewormers and heartworm preventatives. Sometimes you will see roundworms as long, white worms in feces.
Whipworms live in the digestive system and can cause bloody stool, diarrhea, weight loss, and severe illness. Sometimes whipworms cause intense bleeding. Your vet can diagnose and treat whipworms. Sometimes you will see whipworms in your pet’s feces. They are long and white, with one thick end and one thread-like end.
Hookworms live in the digestive system and drink blood. They can cause diarrhea, bloody or tar-like feces, dehydration, and even death. Humans can get hookworms in their skin by touching or handling feces. Hookworms are invisible to the naked eye.
Tapeworms are another digestive system parasite. They do not harm pets much, but you may see flat, white segments in your pet’s feces. You might also see tapeworm eggs, which look like rice.