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Even if you take the best possible care of your dog, he is likely to become the unhappy host of a varied collection of parasites, both internal and external. By knowing what to look for, you can help eradicate most of those pests before they can harm your dog.

External Parasites

Routinely check your dog's skin for signs of parasites, flea dropping (specks of hard, black "dirt") and dandruff. Also check his coat for lice eggs glued to the hair. Frequent or persistent scratching may indicate that your dog has a parasite problem.

Parasites and Telltale Signs
  • Cheyletiella Mites look like a really bad case of dandruff across the back, and severe infestations can result in scaling skin.
  • Demodex Mange Mites are common and usually harmless to dogs, but they can overpopulate in old or weakened dogs or in young puppies, causing secondary infections that appear as oozy pimples or pustules on the skin.
  • Fleas can be tracked down by the "dirt" they leave behind, even if you can't spot the fleas themselves. If you see some of that hard, shiny stuff on your dog's skin, scrape some off and place it on a damp paper towel or tissue. If the dirt "bleeds" - shows red or pinkish - then your dog most likely has fleas.
  • Harvest Mites may cause your dog to lick his feet frequently, and on examination you may find tiny, red larvae. They are common in the fall.
  • Lice are small brown creatures that can be seen moving on the skin. Although they are usually slightly paler than fleas, the way to tell them apart is by checking for the eggs, or nits, that lice will leave glued to your dog's fur.
  • Sarcoptes Mange Mites are too small to be seen but leave behind scabs and crusts as they burrow into their host. They are most commonly found on the tips of the ears and on the elbows, and they cause intense itching and irritation.
  • Ticks are easily diagnosed as they swell with blood and turn brownish-white. If an engorged tick releases and drops to the floor, it can look almost like a rotting grape.
Internal Parasites

Internal parasites can pose a health risk to you as well as your dog, and they are often difficult, if not impossible, to detect except through blood tests and screenings performed by your veterinarian. Prevention is the key.

Telltale Signs
  • Persistent diarrhea or weight loss
  • Licking the anal region repeatedly or scooting his rear across the grass or carpet
  • Signs of maggots, larvae or eggs in the hair around the anus
Go to your veterinarian for proper diagnostics to determine the specific parasite and follow his directions for deworming. Although routine prophylactic deworming can be safe and effective, follow your vet's advice to see if your pet would benefit from the treatments.

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