VCA Woodland East Animal Hospital

Parasites in Dogs: Worms, Fleas, Ticks, and Mites

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  • A dog could be infected with as many as 250 heartworms that are up to 16 inches long

  • You can have ticks in
    your own backyard…
    anytime of the year!

  • A dog with only 25
    fleas gets bitten 600
    a day

The Truth About Parasites in Dogs

Parasites, such as worms, ticks, fleas, and mites, are organisms that thrive by feeding off of other creatures. It’s common for dogs to become infected at some point in their lives, but left untreated parasites can cause serious damage to your pet's health and quality of life. Monitoring your dog for changes in behavior, eating habits or water consumption will help you determine if your dog has parasites.

Discover Which Dog Parasite Risks Exist in Your State
Click a state on the map below to get important information about your region’s parasite risk. See National Parasite Risk »

Some infected dogs have no symptoms. The only way to detect and properly treat internal parasites is through testing.

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There are many parasites that can be harmful to your dog’s health. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Worms in Dogs

Though they are one of the most dangerous parasites in dogs, heartworms are extremely preventable. They are transmitted by mosquitoes and live in the heart and blood vessels of the lungs. Heartworm infection can affect many different organs of the dog but signs of heart and lung disease are most common.

Roundworms can be contracted in many different ways, frequently from a mother to her unborn puppy. Because there are so many ways for your dog to be infected with roundworms, they are very easy to spread. It is essential to keep your dog’s living area clean and prevent them from eating wild animals.

The name “hookworm” is derived from the hook-like mouth-parts these parasites use to anchor themselves on the lining of the intestinal wall. Puppies should be treated for hookworm at 2,4,6 and 8 weeks of age due to the high rate of hookworm infection in newborn puppies.

Tapeworms are long, flat worms that attach to your dog’s intestines. Dogs commonly contract tapeworms from fleas, mice and other rodents and segments of the worms are often found in on your dog’s rear or in their feces. Though there are few symptoms associated with tapeworms, it is still important to treat them as soon as possible.

The whipworm is a common intestinal parasite in dogs. The parasites reside in the cecum, where the small intestine and large intestine meet. Whipworms can be difficult to diagnose because there are few signs of infection, so regular checkups are important.

Skin Parasites: Scabies, Ticks, Mites, and Fleas in Dogs

Caused by a highly contagious skin parasite, scabies tend to burrow in your dog’s skin which can result in scabs and hair loss. Scabies causes severe itching which can lead to intense and prolonged scratching.

They are found in grassy or wooded areas and can attach themselves to you and your pet as you pass by. Although a tick’s bite does not itself pose a direct threat to your dog’s health, it can transmit serious (and sometimes fatal) diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever.

Ear Mites
Barely visible to the human eye, ear mites live on the surface of ear canal skin. As these microscopic parasites feed in a dog’s ear canal, they cause intense itching. A dog suffering from ear mites may be seen repeatedly scratching at his ears or violently shaking his head. If you see dark flecks resembling coffee grounds in your dog’s ears, these are the mites' droppings.

Fleas can make any dog’s life miserable (and their family’s)! These small, blood-sucking insects like to feed on your dog and live anywhere your dog does. Fleas can quickly cause a long-lasting, major infestation in your home. Not only can fleabites cause discomfort, itchiness and severe skin reactions, they can potentially transmit tapeworms if accidentally ingested by your dog.

Other Internal Parasitic Dog Diseases

These tiny single-celled parasites, usually found in puppies, live in your dog’s intestinal lining. Dogs become infected with by swallowing soil that contains coccidia. Left untreated, the parasites can cause diarrhea, weakness and dehydration.

Three Ways to Protect Your Dog Against Parasites

Get your Dog Tested Regularly
While it’s fairly common for a dog to become infected with an internal or external parasite at some point, early treatment is crucial. A harmless parasite left untreated could eventually cause a life-threatening illness for your dog and pose a health risk to your family.

Focus on Prevention First
Preventative medicine is a much better option than costly treatments later. Getting your puppy or dog vaccinated and de-wormed regularly allows her immune system to thrive. Adult dogs also benefit from fecal examinations — which allow your veterinarian to diagnose parasites not controlled by monthly medications.

Bring your Dog in for an Annual Checkup
Bringing your dog to your veterinarian for regular parasite checkups is one of the most important things you can do to keep your dog, and your family, healthy. We offer different programs specifically designed for your dog’s stage of life. Schedule an appointment to find out more.

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Learn More About How to Prevent and Treat Parasites »

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency during normal business hours, please call us immediately. If you have an emergency outside of our normal business hours, please contact a local emergency animal hospital.