Symptoms of Intestinal Parasites in Dogs

By Karen S. Johnson

An intestinal parasite is an example of how something little can lead to a big problem for your canine buddy. Your pet may display no symptoms -- what veterinarians refer to as subclinical -- so exercise due diligence by scheduling regular veterinarian examinations and preventive care. Still, stay attuned to your dog’s appearance, habits and actions for clues of an infestation.

Changes in Appearance

Any negative observable change in your dog’s appearance should raise a red flag for you. Specific to parasites, your dog may lose weight, exhibit an unusually dull coat or dry hair, or develop a round, enlarged stomach -- a potbelly. Some dogs will develop pale gums. Dr. Janet Roark, a veterinarian in Austin, Texas, said that if your standard of care has not changed, yet you note an unthriftiness -- a failure to put on weight or otherwise thrive -- or generally overall poor appearance, your dog may have a parasite problem.

The Unpleasant Signs

If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, take note: Persistent episodes of either or both of these conditions demand veterinarian help. If you notice blood in your dog’s feces, this also earns a call to the veterinarian. Your dog may also exhibit behaviors that cause you to cringe but are his way of telling you to pay attention, like scooting his bottom across the floor or carpet and repeatedly licking his anal region. “Bottom-dragging” can point to other issues, too, such as problems with his anal glands, so don’t treat for parasites without a veterinarian visit or consultation.

It’s Tough to See Them

An at-home diagnosis of intestinal parasites is difficult. You may be able to see eggs, larvae or even maggots around your dog's anal area or, in some cases, in the feces. But in general, a parasitic presence is difficult to detect on your own. Your veterinarian will perform blood and fecal tests to diagnose the problem and identify the proper treatment for a specific infestation. If you do detect clear evidence of parasites, don’t try to treat yourself. Your vet can determine how bad the infestation is and whether a prescription treatment is warranted versus an over-the-counter remedy.

Prevention Is Your Dog's Best Friend

It’s not difficult to employ basic preventive measures to help keep your dog parasite-free. Your veterinarian can advise you on routine deworming treatments, obtained through him or purchased without prescription. Develop a flea-control plan with your veterinarian to prevent a tapeworm infestation. Keep your dog’s potty area clean and try to keep your dog away from areas that may have contaminated feces left by other dogs.