(Tapeworms, Hookworms, Roundworms)
Of all internal parasites, the most serious risk to dogs is heartworm; as the name suggests, an infected mosquito injects a larva into the dog's circulatory system which takes up residence in the heart, consuming cardiac muscle while growing and reproducing to an alarming degree. Dogs may have up to 200 worms. Symptoms vary from loss of energy, loss of appetite, to coughing, the development of a pot belly and anemia. The effects on the dog are quite predictable, cardiac failure over a year or two, leading to death. .
Treatment of an infected dog is difficult, involving an attempt to poison the healthy worm with arsenic compounds without killing the weakened dog, and frequently does not succeed. Blood testing for heartworms is not necessarily indicative of how seriously a dog is infected. Prevention is much the better course. Dogs should be treated at about six weeks of age, and maintained on a prophylactic dose given mothly. This is a dangerous disease present in America, Australia, Asia and Central Europe.
Other canine internal parasites include roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. Roundworms live in the dog's intestine. They are about 10cm long and of white color. About 70% of pups will be infected with Toxocare (as the most common roundworm is called) either as a foetus or from their mother's milk after birth. Therefore, pregnant bitches should be wormed with a suitable product to help prevent the transmission of worms to their pups. Signs that young puppies are infected include: abdominal distension. vomiting, diarrhoea and debility. Puppies may be infected even though you don't actually see the worms. If you do see worms, this may be a sign of a more severe infection and in that case seeking veterinarian advice is recommended ! The greatest danger of this parasite is that it infects people too, so it is wise to have your dog tested regularly for roundworms. Toxocariasis in humans which may cause epilepsy or blindness.
Hookworms are also dangerous to humans and cats. The worms are prevalent wherever dogs are exercised regularly on grassland (racing Greyhounds, sheepdogs, etc.)
Tapeworms are carried by fleas which can be ingurgitated by the dog and passed on to humans (always wash your hands before eating and/or cooking !). Segments of tapeworm may be noticed around the anal area or on the bedding. They are white in color and look much line grains of rice. Puppies are not often affected by tapeworms. Tapeworm disease is not life threatening in dogs but can be the cause of a very serious liver disease for humans.
All dogs should be treated for worms regularly (preferably every three months) whether there are signs of infection or not. Puppies should be treated every 2 weeks from 4 weeks of age until they are 12 weeks old and after every month until they are 6 months old. This is especially true in households with young children who are at most risk of catching worms from their pet! Children should be taught to always wash their hands after handling a dog.
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