Everything has to make a living to survive, and that includes all the parasites, like fleas, ticks, worms, and other pests that can infest our puppies and dogs. Whether we like it or not, almost all puppies and dogs will get some sort of parasite in their lifetime. Thankfully, most of these pests are easy to detect and treat, but it is important to go regularly to your veterinarian to have your puppy or dog checked so that these pests do not get out of control.
Many puppies almost always get one of the most common pests that plague our pets: intestinal worms. For puppies, they can get worms from their mother or from eating or picking them up from outside. Symptoms can include the usual intestinal upsets like vomiting and diarrhea, and sometimes the worms can be seen in the stool. The most common of the intestinal worms in puppies are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia. These can be detected under a microscope using a little bit of fresh poop from your puppy. It is best to bring a fecal sample in with your first visit. Even if no intestinal parasites are detected, your puppy should be dewormed anyway just in case. Adult dogs can pick up intestinal worms anytime during their lives and therefore should be checked at least once a year.
One type of worm that is especially dangerous to our canine friends is heartworm. Heartworms are transmitted by a mosquito bite where the heartworm larvae enter the puppy or dog’s bloodstream and go to live in arteries of the lungs. From there, they will migrate to the heart and can cause serious damage. It is usually when the heartworms begin to cause problems in the heart that symptoms in the puppy or dog like coughing, heavy breathing, not wanting to exercise, loss of appetite, or other signs of heart failure can be seen. This is why a puppy owner must start their puppy on heartworm preventative and continue it as their veterinarian recommends. Heartworm tests need to be done at least once if not twice a year to be sure your puppy or dog has not been infested. It is dangerous to start a preventative if the pet has heartworms! If heartworms are detected, then they can be treated but it will be hard on your pet and your wallet. Prevention is much better than treatment, and now heartworm prevention is available in daily, monthly, or even twice a year dosages to make it easier on you and your puppy.
Ear mites are common parasites that infect puppies and can spread rapidly from the ears to their skin and to other pets in the house as well (although thankfully not to us humans!). Symptoms of ear mites can include increased scratching or shaking of the ears or head, and a dark, thick, and crusty discharge that looks like coffee grounds. (If the ear has a smell, and is filled with a slimier and usually lighter colored discharge, your puppy may have an ear infection, which also must be treated by the vet). If you notice any symptoms of ear mites, isolate the puppy from other pets as needed and bring the puppy to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will test for mites and if found, will prescribe medication and instruct you on how to use the medication properly in the ears. If the mites have spread to the skin, a topical cream will most likely be prescribed as well. After treatment, a follow-up trip to your vet is recommended.
Fleas and ticks are almost a given for any puppy owner. One or the other, or both, will most likely infest your puppy at some point depending on where you live and the time of year. Check your new puppy for either of these pests, and then talk to your veterinarian on the best ways to control them. Thankfully, the new treatments to kill fleas and ticks, like the drops that are simply put on the skin of the puppy once a month, make taking care of fleas and ticks much easier than it was in the past. These drops also help keep the puppy from getting diseases like Lyme disease that can only be passed to the puppy if the tick is attached for more than twenty-four hours.