Internal parasites usually live in a puppy’s digestive system and are detected by an examination of the puppy’s stool. Treatment for worms and parasites can begin at two weeks of age and be repeated every two or three weeks as determined by your veterinarian. Researchers believe that many puppies are infested by roundworms and hookworms from their mother.
Roundworms: This parasite can be transmitted from the mother to her pups before birth or during nursing. The thin, spaghetti-like parasite, about five inches long, can cause a potbellied appearance. The larvae migrate through a puppy’s body and are sometimes seen in the feces. Stunted growth, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and sometimes pneumonia can result from roundworm infection, or no symptoms may be visible.
Hookworm: This is one of the most dangerous of all intestinal parasites. The hookworm can be transmitted from mothers to puppies before birth and during nursing. This worm fastens itself onto the walls of the puppy’s small intestine. Hookworm infection may produce lethargy, anemia, poor appetite and black tarry stools containing blood.
Whipworm: This parasite settles into the lower end of a puppy’s digestive tract, causing chronic bowel inflammation, mucus in the stool, weight loss and diarrhea.
Tapeworms: In larva form, this parasite usually enters a puppy’s body when he swallows a flea. Rodents can also be a source of tapeworms. It seldom causes obvious symptoms, but small, rice-like segments can be found around the anus and in the feces of an infected animal. Mature tapeworms feed from the intestines, causing the puppy to eat more than normal without weight gain. Because of the chance of re-infestation, your puppy should be relatively free of fleas when he is treated for tapeworms.
Coccidia: To avoid these organisms, which can live in a puppy’s intestines, make sure your puppy doesn’t eat raw or undercooked meat. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, weight loss and loss of appetite. Sometimes infected puppies show no symptoms.
Heartworm: Transmitted by the bite of a mosquito, this dangerous parasite lives in a puppy’s heart or near it in major blood vessels. Heartworm disease can be fatal and cause heart or lung damage, coughing, lethargy and fatigue. Heartworms can be detected by a blood test. It is difficult to cure but easy to prevent with medication from your veterinarian. A blood test will ensure that the heartworm is not already present before giving a preventative treatment. The medicine is administered in monthly or daily doses during the mosquito season or, in some areas, year-round. Never treat a puppy for heartworm except under the supervision of your veterinarian.