Dog Parasites - The Importance of Preventing Parasites in Your Dog

How old does my dog need to be to start parasite prevention?

Most puppies, anywhere from six to eight weeks old, must be dewormed with an oral dewormer for intestinal parasites. That's something either the breeder or we do. I also recommend starting flea and tick prevention when they're seven to eight weeks old and continuing lifelong. It's really important. So they start pretty young in life.

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws at Fulshear Animal Clinic

What are intestinal parasites, and how do I get rid of them in my dog?

There's a whole list of intestinal parasites. The most common we see are roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms; some are called coccidia and giardia. There's a whole list. Hookworms are microscopic. They are blood-sucking parasites. These are not the ones you'll be able to see in the stool. Common signs of hookworms in puppies are diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia in severe cases. I've had to give a blood transfusion to a puppy before because of a hookworm infestation, so it's super important to get these guys screened. Roundworms are long, stringy, and white. Not to be gross, but we're going to get a little gross. They look like spaghetti. Those are visible to the naked eye. If you see those, those are roundworms. They're not blood-sucking parasites, but they do steal nutrients from the pet.

They eat the food that the pet is ingesting. They take up space, and if there are too many of them, they can actually cause a blockage in the intestines. Symptoms include what you could see coming out in the stool, and the puppy will vomit it up, which I think is really gross, but it's part of being a veterinarian. Sometimes we deal with gross things. A lot of the other parasites are going to be microscopic, like giardia or coccidia, but some of the most common symptoms of intestinal parasites are diarrhea and/or vomiting.

What are external parasites, and what can I do to prevent them?

External parasites are things that feed on pets from the outside. In dogs, it's most commonly fleas and ticks.

Is ringworm a parasite?

That's a really good question. It certainly acts like one, but ringworms are actually a fungal infection. We test for it by setting a fungal culture. Sometimes you can find it through the microscope on a slide, and about 40% of ringworms will light up under black lights. So I like to call it my little light show in exam rooms, and it's pretty cool when it just lights up.

How will a veterinarian diagnose internal parasites in my dog?

Generally, we do an intestinal parasite screening, so we get a stool sample. Most parasites will shed their eggs in the pet's stool, so we do a fecal and look under the microscope after it sits and floats for about 10 minutes, or we send it out to the lab to be centrifuged so that the eggs float to the top. That is generally how we get a diagnosis. It's also important to note that not all parasites shed eggs all the time because they have life cycles. So if you have hookworms, roundworms, or tapeworms, those eggs aren't going to be consistently shed all the time. That's why we check multiple fecals on puppies or why it's recommended because maybe the first fecal we get when the puppy's seven weeks old is clear. But when we recheck in four weeks for boosters at 11 weeks old, we see roundworms or hookworms.

It was because those parasites weren't simply releasing eggs into the stool at that point in time. That's why it's so important to have puppies checked regularly. Also, that's why it's part of your yearly exam because you can pick them up from the environment. We do have a lot of wildlife, and unfortunately, we can only do so much to protect our pets. Heartworm prevention is also really important, and many heartworm preventatives actually have dewormers in them, so most of the time, your pet is getting dewormed once a month.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (281) 801-1444, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media,

Dog Parasites - FAQs

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws At Fulshear

Can all intestinal parasites be prevented?

Intestinal parasites can be prevented with environmental control, but it requires 100% effectiveness, which is quite challenging. While these parasites can be prevented and treated, it's going to be fairly hard.

How might my dog get intestinal parasites?

Most dogs pick up intestinal parasites from either other dogs, the environment, or they might have them from their mothers.

Can my indoor dog still get intestinal parasites?

Yes, your indoor dog can still get intestinal parasites. Even though your dog is indoors, they come into contact with the outside environment when they go out for walks or to potty. They can get parasites like hookworms and roundworms from the grass or by ingesting a live flea. There are some intestinal parasites that are also contagious to people, so we need to be cautious about that. Dogs can get tapeworms when they ingest a live flea, so if your dog is an indoor dog, but they have tapeworms, that means that when they are going outside to go potty, fleas are getting on them and they're chewing at them and swallowing a live flea because that's the only way a dog can get a tapeworm.

How can I keep my dog from passing intestinal parasites on to other pets in the household?

You can prevent your dog from passing intestinal parasites on to other pets by cleaning up after them as soon as they have a defecation or bowel movement. By picking up their stool immediately, you can prevent the larvae from getting into the grass, especially if your dog has parasites like hookworms.

Is there a medication to prevent my dog from getting intestinal parasites?

Yes, there is a medication called dewormer. If you are using HeartGuard Plus, which we recommend, it contains a dewormer that will deworm your dog once a month. they are out in the environment, they are coming into contact with all kinds of things out here in full shirt. A lot of wildlife can transmit intestinal parasites in their feces and/or urine, so making sure your pet is on a monthly dewormer with their heartworm is a great idea. We also do annual fecal screenings to detect the presence of intestinal parasites.

I cannot tell you how many times these dogs have no symptoms. It's a routine health check that allows us to find out they’ve got hookworms, roundworms, or tapeworms on the rear end. The dog may have no symptoms, so that's why these tests are so important in annual exams.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (281) 801-1444, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram