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Bow ‘ow’? Parasite prevention for your pooch

May 11, 2018

Does your dog have an itch it just can't seem to scratch?

The summer season sets the scene, not only for picnics and pool parties, but also for pests lying in wait for a chance to prey on your precious pup — and potentially you, too. But, before you send Fido packing, know that you have a plethora of options available to combat these would-be invaders.

First, let’s consider what we may commonly be up against:

  • Ectoparasites: These are perhaps some of the most well-known insects associated with dogs. These pests prefer to live on or just under the surface of your dog’s skin and can easily be picked up on outdoor adventures and introduced to your home.

    • Fleas: Dogs typically get fleas from other animals. Fleas are notoriously challenging to see with the naked eye, but their bites can cause severe irritation and inflammation. Your dog will undoubtedly be scratching and biting at their skin almost incessantly if infected.

    • Ticks: Ticks can easily be picked up in tall grass and wooded areas. More than just disgusting bloodsuckers, infected ticks can transmit Lyme disease, a serious bacterial illness that can also be passed on to humans.

    • Mites: Just as with people, mites exist naturally on dogs, but if found in excessive quantities, they can cause serious skin problems. Ear mites are another common concern. They are highly contagious and are typically passed from outdoor cats to canines, though humans are generally immune. Excessive head shaking and scratching at ears/the head are usually dead giveaways.

  • Internal parasites: Dogs can contract internal parasites from a variety of situations, but they are typically transmitted when an animal unintentionally ingests parasite eggs in contaminated soil, water, food or feces.

    • Heartworms: One bite from an infected mosquito can lead to an unprotected dog developing heartworm disease, by far one of the most preventable and potentially deadly infections.

    • Tapeworms: There are several types of tapeworm, but the most common is caused by swallowing an infected flea. They typically set up shop in your dog’s small intestine, where they continue to feed and grow. Tapeworms compromise your pet’s nutrition and can contribute to weight loss, lethargy and a variety of other issues.

    • Hookworms: These nasty intestinal parasites can be ingested by sniffing or eating contaminated soil or feces. Hookworms literally hook themselves into the lining of your dog’s intestines and leave holes in their wake, potentially leading to anemia, weakness, weight loss and death.

Of course, these are just a few examples of the many possible pests that might afflict your canine companion. So, what’s a concerned dog mom or dad to do?

 

An ounce of prevention

 

First and foremost, let’s remember that we are our dogs’ biggest advocates. It is up to us to ensure that they have a clean, safe environment to thrive in. And, as responsible owners, we should all be taking the following recommended actions:

  • Feed a chewable heartworm preventative, year-round, as prescribed by your veterinarian. It is a cheap and highly effective way to prevent disease.

  • Flea and tick preventatives abound. You may choose from chewables, collars and topicals. Choose what works best for your dog and your lifestyle, as recommended by your veterinarian.

  • Brush and bathe your dog regularly. This will not only allow for some quality bonding time, but it will also allow you to address any potential skin issues.

  • Schedule time to regularly clean up your yard. Keeping it relatively free of feces and overgrowth will go a long way in keeping your pet healthy.

  • Always check your dog’s skin (and yours, too!) after spending time in heavily wooded areas. If you should happen to find an embedded tick, take care in removing it. There are many affordable tick removal tools on the market today.

 

Building a defense

 

Another thing to consider is your nutrition regimen and what role it might play in immune defense, especially against would-be pathogenic or viral invaders. Much like us, dogs have a natural immunity that they have built up over the course of their life, but, unfortunately, that’s not always enough to prevent harm or illness. One thing you can do to help support your dog’s immunity is feed a high-quality diet containing trace minerals such as organic selenium (think Sel-Plex®). Selenium can help to maintain proper function and strength of the immune system and counteract oxidative damage caused by infections.

As the late, great Benjamin Franklin so wisely proclaimed in 1736, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Nearly 300 years later, this advice still rings true.

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