The word parasite refers to an organism that lives off of another—in this case your puppy—at the expense of that puppy. Parasites may live on the skin, within the skin, and inside the body such as in your puppy's intestines or bloodstream. They may be bugs or worms you see, fungus that's microscopic, or single-cell organisms like protozoan. These parasites can cause aggravating symptoms at best and deathly illness at worst.
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Fleas are the most common type of parasite affecting puppies. These tiny bloodsuckers can cause itching, skin damage from scratching, allergic reactions, hair loss, hot spots and even potentially fatal anemia (low red blood cell counts) in severe cases. Fleas also can transmit a variety of infectious agents with their bite.
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Puppies and Ticks
Ticks have ticked off pet lovers and puppies for years. There are many varieties, and while one or two may go unnoticed, the blood sucker's bite can lead to itching, scratching and hot spots. Ticks also can transmit infectious agents with their bite, including those that cause Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
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Sarcoptic Mange and Scabies
A very contagious skin disorder of puppies, caused by a mite, is canine scabies—also known as sarcoptic mange. This disease causes intense itching and can be spread to other species, including people.
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A microscopic, cigar-shaped skin mite, these parasites are considered normal inhabitants of the skin of dogs. However, the immature immune systems of puppies may not be able to keep them under control. Large numbers of mites can cause hair loss with or without itching, a condition that can go by the name demodectic or red mange. With a little time and appropriate treatment, most puppies recover uneventfully.
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Ringworm is a unique —a fungus that infects or parasitizes the puppy's skin and coat. But it can masquerade and mimic many other skin conditions and requires special techniques to diagnose. Treatment with topical antifungal medications and sometimes oral ones too almost always is successful.
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What Are Ear Mites
Ear mites are one type of ear infection that is especially prevalent in puppies. To diagnose ear mites, a veterinarian will take a swab from your puppies ears and look at it under the microscope. Over the counter ear mite treatments are available but the ones that you can get through veterinarians work much faster and are easier to use. Making sure you know how to treat ear mites in puppies is very important.
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Almost all puppies are born with roundworms or contract them when they nurse from their mother. Several doses of an effective dewormer given on an appropriate schedule will usually get rid of them before they can do too much damage.
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You won't see these tiny worms, but the hookworm parasite can be deadly for young puppies. Even though adult dogs develop some immunity, they also can be at risk for this blood-sucking worm. Your veterinarian can diagnose hookworms by looking at a fecal sample under the microscope. Several different types of dewormers are effective against hookworms when use per label directions.
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***Does your puppy have fleas? Then chances are she also will develop tapeworms. You'll see them squiggling along like inchworms on the fur near her bottom under her tail, or in her bedding. Yes, these are nasty parasites but can be easily prevented.
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Whipworms are a less common but potentially dangerous intestinal parasite of puppies. They are called whip worms because they look like tiny whips. You won't see these in the puppy's stool, though, and the eggs are microscopic and must be identified by the veterinarian to diagnose. Whipworms can be difficult to get rid of, too, because they can survive in the environment and re-infect your baby dog time and again, often in conjunction with hookworms.
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Giardia in puppies can be difficult to diagnose and is a common cause of puppy diarrhea.
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Some intestinal puppy parasites are so tiny, it requires a microscope to find them—but they can still cause great health problems. Coccidia is a protozoan as is giardia, and both can be contracted from the environment.
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Salmonella is a bacteria that has been known to contaminate human food and cause food poisoning, and it also can affect puppies. Salmonella is found in the environment and some animals, or their feces. Puppies may become sick from eating contaminated raw foods, varmints or animal droppings, and sometimes even commercial pet foods become contaminated. It can make puppies very sick and causes diarrhea and vomiting.
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Heartworms hide on the inside of your puppy and are an insidious parasite transmitted by mosquitoes that can cause heart and lung damage and ultimately kill your pet. Thankfully, there are very effective preventive medications available.