Illnesses & Parasites

This page is informational and in no way replaces consulting a veterinarian.

Canine Parvovirus

What is it? Often just called "parvo," canine parvovirus is one of the most contagious and serious diseases dogs face. It is a fast moving virus which is especially serious in puppies, who have as high as a 50% mortality rate. Dogs that receive immediate treatment are far more likely to survive.

How is it spread? When a dog comes in contact with an infected dog or an area contaminated with the feces of an infected dog they can catch parvo. The virus can remain contagious in an area for more than 5 months.

How to prevent it? Parvo is a virus prevented through vaccination. Although parvo vaccines is not guaranteed 100%, it is highly effective. Your veterinarian will be able to discuss the proper vaccine schedule for your dog. Because parvo is spread easily from an infected dog to an unvaccinated dog, until your puppy finishes its vaccination regimen it is extremely important to avoid dog parks and other areas frequented by unknown dogs.

Symptoms? If you see any of the following in your adult dog or puppy contact your Veterinarian immediately.

  • Change in appetite

  • Lack of energy/lethargy

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • "Pot belly" - abdominal distention or discomfort

  • Dehydration

  • Severe or bloody diarrhea that is extremely frequent

Can I catch it from my dog? The strain of Parvovirus that infects dogs and cats does not affect humans so you cannot catch it from your dog. 

Diagnosis/Treatment? Parvo is easily diagnosed through an inexpensive fecal test. If your dog does test positive immediate intensive treatment will probably be needed in a veterinary hospital.

Giardiasis

What is it? The illness caused by Girardia, a protozoan (single-celled parasite) that infects a dogs intestines. Often dogs can have Girardia in their intestines without developing illness. Some estimate as much as 70% of dogs have Girardia.

How is it spread? A dog can ingest this parasite through contact with infected feces or contaminated water. Many types of animals contain Girardia so this includes feces besides that of dogs.

How to prevent it? The best way to prevent your dog from contracting Girardia is to ensure it has clean, safe drinking water. Avoid allowing your pet to drink water from outside sources that may have been exposed to animal feces. In addition, avoid allowing your pet to sniff or ingest droppings from other animals.

Symptoms? Again it is possible for a dog show no signs of a girardia infection.When symptomatic a dog may display

  • weight loss

  • inability to gain weight while growing

  • diarrhea

  • vomiting

  • lack of appetite

  • greasy-looking stools 

Can I catch it from my dog? The exact strain of Girardia that infects humans is different than that which infects dogs so it is unlikely. 

Diagnosis/Treatment? Girardia is easily diagnosed through an inexpensive fecal test. If your dog does test positive, your veterinarian can prescribe an effective control for the disease.

Coccidia

What is it? A protozoan (single-celled parasite) that lives in a dog's intestines. They often show illness in puppies or kittens under 6 months old. Most older dogs build an immunity to the symptoms unless they have a suppressed immune system or are under extreme stress.

How is it spread? Puppies are not born with this organism in its intestines, but after birth is often exposed to the mother's feces and if the mother is shedding infected cysts the babies then ingest them. From exposure to the coccidia in feces to the onset of the illness is about 13 days so often puppies show signs of this very young. If not infected from the mother however, a puppy or dog can ingest this parasite through contact with any infected feces or contaminated water.

How to prevent it? The best way to prevent your dog from contracting Coccidia is to ensure it has clean, safe drinking water. Avoid allowing your pet to drink water from outside sources that may have been exposed to animal feces. In addition, avoid allowing your pet to sniff or ingest droppings from other animals. 

Symptoms? It is possible for a dog show no signs of coccidia infection and only be a carrier. When symptomatic a dog may display

  • diarrhea

  • mucus and/or blood in stools

  • vomiting

  • lack of appetite

  • dehydration

Can I catch it from my dog? The coccidia species of dogs and cats do not infect humans.

Diagnosis/Treatment? Coccidia is easily diagnosed through an inexpensive fecal test. If your dog does test positive, your veterinarian will prescribe medication as treatment. These treatments prevent reproduction of the parasite so complete removal from the dog's system can take time.

Worms - hookworm, tapeworm, roundworm & whipworm

What is it? Worms are intestinal parasites in dogs. The four most common varieties are hookworm, tapeworm, roundworm and whipworm.

How is it spread? A large percentage of puppies are born with microscopic roundworm and/or hookworm in their system which they obtain from their mother while still in her uterus. They also can be spread through the mother's milk while nursing. Tapeworms are mostly transmitted through the ingestion of fleas. Finally, all varieties of worms can also be transmitted through exposure to contaminated feces or stool contaminated soil (roundworm eggs can survive in soil for years). 

How to prevent it? Remove feces from your yard at least once per week and minimize your pet's exposure to other animal feces or places that often contain feces from other animals. Have your dog's feces checked by a veterinarian on a regular basis and use a wormer medication under the supervision of your vet.

Symptoms? Some worm infestations show no signs at all and can lay dormant inside the animal's body until times of stress or late in pregnancy. In addition not all are visible in feces to the eye. Roundworm come in a variety of sizes and can sometimes be seen in stool. Segments that have detached from tapeworm also may sometimes be seen in your dog's stool. Hookworm and whipworm are so small they are often not visible and all of the worm eggs can only be seen with a microscope. Other symptoms include

  • Diarrhea, perhaps with blood

  • Weight loss

  • Dry hair

  • General poor appearance

  • Vomiting, perhaps with worms in the vomit

Can I catch it from my dog? Yes. Worms found in dogs and cats can be a potential health risk for humans. Please take the worming advice of your veterinarian seriously and adhere to strict sanitation principles whenever pets and children are in close contact. To learn more about parasites of man and animals look at the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov

Diagnosis/Treatment? Early diagnosis is important so frequent fecal testing by a vet is recommended. A dewormer solution can be used to rid your pet of worms. The type of dewormer solution will depend on the type of worm present. Not all worms respond to the same treatment and no single wormer works against all kinds of parasites. Although over-the-counter dewormers are available some are not effective in removing worms so consulting a veterinarian is recommended.