Dog Parasites And Pests

Parasites and Pests that Plague Your Dog

A dog may be best friend to more than just man. Other little creatures might have a close relationship with your pooch, as well. Keep reading to learn about the parasites and pests that could be negatively impacting your dog”s health.

Fleas and Ticks

The most common dog pests are fleas and ticks. These little bloodsuckers can cause dog health problems by transmitting diseases to your dog as they bite him or her.

Fleas, wingless insects that feed on the blood of other animals, can cause all kinds of dog health problems, including itching and discomfort. In most cases, dogs scratch a lot, causing them to develop rashes and/or sores. While some dogs experience allergic reactions to fleas, in extreme cases, fleas can carry and transmit tapeworm to your dog, causing serious dog health problems that can potentially be fatal.

Dogs are also prone to ticks. Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids that your dog can pick up while he”s outside. Contrary to popular belief, ticks cannot jump onto dogs. Rather, they position themselves, usually in tall grass, so that they can latch on to your dog when he passes.

Ticks burrow into the dog”s skin to feed. They may drop off when they are full, causing yet another hazard in the household, since ticks can also attack humans. Ticks can be smaller than a match head or bigger than a raisin. One of the main concerns with ticks is their ability to transmit Lyme disease, a fatal condition if left untreated.

Pest vs. Parasite

Your dog is vulnerable to numerous pests and parasites. But, what is the difference between a pest and a parasite? Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to different conditions. While pests usually cause mild irritation and minor discomfort, parasites can cause serious harm or even death to your dog.

Preventing Fleas and Ticks

Preventative measures and treatments that can reduce fleas and ticks infestation include:

  • Flea and tick collars help prevent the transmission of these critters.
  • If you live in a grassy area, keep your dog well trimmed so that you can see any ticks and fleas that he may pick up.
  • Many people use liquid medications to prevent fleas and ticks on their dogs. This medicine is usually applied to the back of the animal”s neck. Advantage is one of the most popular forms of this medication.
  • Spray or shampoo your dog with flea and tick prevention products avoid these pests.

The Mighty Mites

Mites, very small (often microscopic) parasites that are relatives of the spider, can infect your dog”s skin and/or ears. While most dogs with healthy immune systems can fight off moderate mite populations, when the balance is disrupted, these parasites can cause serious dog health problems.

Mites tend to live in a dog”s hair follicles or oil glands. If not kept under control, these parasites can cause a condition called mange. Mange manifests as itchy patches and bald spots on your dog”s skin and fur. The best way to prevent the transmission of mites is to keep your dog healthy.

If ear mites plague your dog, you might notice that he is scratching his ears a lot. If you think mange may be a problem for your dog, talk to your vet about treatment options, as mites can be transmitted between pets. Your vet can prescribe eardrops to kill the parasites and relieve symptoms.

Generally, mites don”t pose a problem to humans.

Tapeworms and Dog Health

Although tapeworms can cause severe dog health issues, you can easily treat these parasites if you recognize their symptoms.

Dogs get tapeworms when they ingest a flea or other animal that is carrying tapeworms. The worms then take up residence in the dog”s intestine, growing up to eight inches in length. As the worm grows, pieces of it break off and are excreted in the dog”s stool. Thus, you might see these segments, which look like grains of white rice, in your dog”s feces or in his fur around his anus or on his tail.

Once you notice the tapeworms, schedule an appointment with your vet. She will prescribe a drug that will dissolve the parasites internally, eradicating the problem from the inside out.


Though many animals can get heartworm, dogs are this parasite”s prime targets. Infected mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting heartworms to dogs. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, heartworm larvae enter the dog”s bloodstream and reach maturity in the dog”s heart, most often in the right ventricle.When a dog is first infected with heartworms, he might not show any symptoms. After about a year, however, the parasites will multiply rapidly and settle into the dog”s pulmonary arteries. This can cause such dog health problems as:

  • bloody stool
  • coughing
  • fainting
  • listlessness
  • loss of appetite
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the abdomen
  • tiring easily
  • weight loss.

While you can successfully treat heartworm if you catch it early enough, prevention is a much better tactic. In addition to being more economical, preventive measures are also easier on your dog, as treatment is complex and often dangerous. To prevent heartworm, you can give your dog medication year-round that typically comes pill form (administered monthly).

Be sure to talk with your vet before starting preventative treatment for heartworms, especially if there is any chance that your dog could already be infected.