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Could Your Dog Have Intestinal Parasites?

Parasites can be common (but important) causes of gastrointestinal-related problems in our canine companions. While fleas and ticks are easy for pet parents to spot and identify, intestinal parasites can be present inside your BFF (best furry friend) without you realizing it. So, although it’s disturbing to think about, every dog parent needs to know about common intestinal parasites and how to prevent them from causing serious health problems for both four- and two-legged family members.

Common canine intestinal parasites

All dogs are thought to become infected with intestinal parasites at some point during their lifetime. In fact, many puppies may be infected with intestinal parasites prior to birth or shortly afterward during nursing. Many people find puppies with roly-poly tummies to be adorable — until they learn that that potbellied puppy has intestinal parasites.

The most common parasites to inhabit a dog’s intestines include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, Giardia and coccidia. These parasites can affect your dog in a variety of ways, ranging from simple irritation to life-threatening conditions if left untreated. Besides making your dog sick, many of these parasites can also cause disease in people, so early detection and careful handling of your dog’s stool is important.

Symptoms of intestinal parasites

Most dogs with intestinal parasites don’t show signs or symptoms until the infection becomes severe, although there are two exceptions. The first is tapeworms, which shed egg-filled segments that look like grains of rice. These segments can be seen on your dog’s stool, around his anus and in areas of your home where your dog tends to rest. Roundworms are the second exception. They can occasionally be seen in your dog’s stool or vomit.

If a dog does develop symptoms of intestinal parasites, they may still go undetected because the signs are nonspecific. In other words, signs of intestinal parasites can be attributed to many different canine health problems. The most common signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites are:

  • Diarrhea, with or without blood or mucus
  • Scooting
  • Vomiting
  • Distended abdomen (belly)
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased activity
  • Dull coat

Diagnosing, treating and preventing intestinal parasites

You don’t want to wait to see evidence of intestinal parasites before taking action to protect your four-legged family member. Because intestinal parasites release microscopic eggs into your dog’s stool, your veterinarian can perform a fecal examination to determine if these worms are present and, if so, which ones are causing trouble for your dog.

The good news is that intestinal parasites are easy to treat and even easier to prevent. In fact, if you give your dog a heartworm prevention medication, you’re most likely protecting your pet from the most common intestinal parasites. Several heartworm medications can treat roundworms and hookworms, and some products can even treat whipworms, tapeworms and one or more stages of fleas. You’ll want to talk with your veterinarian to determine which parasite control medication is right for your dog.