Prevention & treatment of parasites in your dog
Parasites can be summed up as basically any living thing that is on or in your dog that isn’t supposed to be there :) Ticks, fleas, and mites can cause trouble from the outside, while a wide variety of worms and protozoa can cause issues from the inside! Parasite prevention and treatment can pretty well be broken up into those two groups——the inside ones and the outside ones. What you are most concerned with at the time of bringing a puppy home are the inside ones, so we will talk about those first!
Worms in puppies are, unfortunately, often just part of puppy life. Although it sounds disgusting, and may give you the shakes just to think about, it really is a pretty common occurrence. Just like with humans, all dogs will probably deal with worms at some point in life. Often, just like with humans, this can happen without us even knowing! And, just like with humans, it is the younger generation that most often deals with issues related to internal parasites. Most problems arise when there is an infestation beyond what the animal’s body can keep in check. Puppies are most susceptible to issues with internal parasites getting out of control, and this is why we pay careful attention to prevention of this issue, and suggest that our families keep their puppies on a regular deworming schedule throughout their time as a young puppy, and then annually or bi-annually depending on your dog’s lifestyle, your area, and your vet’s recommendations.
While puppies are here, we have them on a strict preventative regimen to help keep them from having any issues with a variety of worms. When our puppies head home, they will go to their new family with a health record outlining——among other things——their complete history of worming protocol. When you take your pup to the vet for the first time, you will show them this record, and they can make a plan based on what is common in your area for your pup’s continued care.
This covers the basics of it, but I would like to address a couple of misconceptions people occasionally have about worms and puppies.
First of all, preventing worm infestations in your puppy requires your continued attention to treatments. Puppies WILL come into contact with parasites as they are EVERYWHERE. In the soil, in a rain puddle, tracked on the bottoms of our shoes, in the feces of other dogs or cats that they sniff around (and sometimes even EAT…..blech!!!) while out on a walk or at the park, from the other animals they are with in a guardian situation…..everywhere! Treatments do not prevent the picking up of parasites or their eggs, but prevents them from carrying out their lifecycle inside of your dog. The treatments that we do here at our farm doesn’t protect your dog when you are home and they are exploring your neighbor’s yard——you will have to continue treatment to prevent issues with internal parasites. The most common schedule is for you to continue treatment at 10, 12, 14, and 16 weeks of age in your home.
Also, to speak specifically to one variety of parasites that is often misunderstood, I would like to take a moment to discuss Giardia. Giardia is an internal parasite (protozoa), but it is often misunderstood how it works, and unfortunately there are veterinarians that are going against recommendations by various parasite specialists in order to use this EXTREMELY commonly found parasite to provide extra income for clinics.
Giardia is extremely common in the environment, and your puppy will almost certainly encounter it at some point in time. Most of the time, your dog will shed it in feces without it becoming an issue in the body. A test was done in Calgary, Alberta at a public parks and 24.7% of dogs were shedding Giardia. The issue comes with the dogs in which the parasite does “take hold” within the body and reproduce at a level that it does cause the animal issues. This becomes an illness called Giardiasis and is characterized by very bad diarrhea (more than “normal” loose puppy stools that can be in response to many things in a new home!), along with weight loss, lethargy, and often vomiting. So to clear that up…..shedding of Giardia can happen in a healthy dog without illness. In fact, according to veterinarian Dr. Eric Barchas in this article for Dogster.com, “many experts now believe that Giardia is a natural part of many canines’ intestinal flora.” Illness comes when Giardia protozoa can occasionally become too much for a specific dog’s system and cause the dog to have Giardiasis.
Although I don’t think it is a common occurrence, I do want to take a quick opportunity to make families aware of this parasite as some vets seem to be using it to take advantage of puppy families. From our visiting with other breeders, this seems to be concentrated in vet’s who are somewhat “against” breeders, but encourage families to ONLY adopt from rescues instead. They will often paint the picture that the puppy probably picked up the protozoa from less than ideal conditions at the breeder (even though the one of the most common ways to pick up Giardia is thought to be from drinking from puddles of rainwater!). In addition, they will let families know that Giardia is “zoonotic”, causing families to worry that they will get Giardia from their dog! However, according to a 2013 article in Today’s Veterinary Practice, there has actually never been a case of human Giardiasis tied back to a dog in North America. Then, they will charge the family high prices to treat the Giardia (note: the “Giardia”, not the “Giardiasis”) and also to treat all other animals in the house. Not only is this a pain, but can get expensive!
Obviously, if your dog or puppy is showing signs of Giardiasis, seeking treatment is the right thing to do! However, the official Companion Animal Parasite Council does not recommend testing dogs for Giardia unless they are symptomatic of Giardiasis, as misdiagnosis is common and expensive.
This is something that I will write more on in the future, but that we do recommend careful research on. Prevention methods require a lot of looking at the risk in your area, combined with your dogs lifestyle, and weighing out the pros and cons. Just PLEASE be aware that many of the normal flea and tick preventatives on the market are NOT as cut and dry as they initially appear to be. They can have VERY serious short and long term side effects that can harm your dog. Although there are many natural remedies, there isn’t a perfect alternative that doesn’t require a little extra work (that we are aware of yet!), and again, you must weigh their use considering your situation, but please make yourself aware of the possible side effects before making anything a part of your routine.