roundworm puppyRoundworms is the common name for several species of nematodes or ascarids. The name roundworms is derived from the tubular shape of the worms. Several species can infect dogs, but the species Toxocara canis can cause significant problems in humans as well as the species found in raccoons, Baylisascaris procyonis.

Dogs can become infested with roundworms by ingesting the eggs in the environment deposited in fecal matter, through the placenta while in the womb, or in the milk when nursing. The larvae then migrate through the liver and lungs of the puppy where they enter the air way, are coughed up, and then swallowed. They then settle in the intestinal tract absorbing the nutrients that should be meant for your puppy. A lot of damage is done when they are migrating through the body.

In humans, accidental ingestion of roundworm eggs can also migrate internally causing a syndrome know as visceral larva migrans. Signs of  VLM  can be characterized by hepatomegaly (liver enlargement), lung disease, and increase in eosinophils from allergic reactions. The larva can also migrate through the nervous system causing neurologic disease.
In some children, the larvae can migrate to the eyes causing inflammation and may result in blindness.

roundworms 300x221 Roundworms in Puppies

Contamination of the environment by raccoons has caused  significant problems in some regions. The migration of the raccoon roundworms also cause more significant disease problems. Accidental ingestion has also occurred when children may have chewed on firewood, or when playing in contaminated sandboxes or playgrounds. The best defense for this is to be sure children do not chew on objects that may have been contaminated and to wash their hands after playing outside.

Because of the potential infection of people, puppies and dogs should
be de-wormed every 2 weeks starting at 2 weeks of age and then once a month as maintenance when 4 months old. The newer heartworm and flea preventions also include a dewormer to control hookworms and roundworms. Dogs infested with roundworms can pass thousands of eggs in their feces. These eggs can survive in the environment  and be
infective for several years.

For more information, visit Pets and Parasites What every Pet owner Should Know about Hookworms and Roundworms

Roundworms -Ascariasis


hookworm teethHookworms are a very common intestinal parasite of dogs. They get their nickname from the hook-like mouth parts (teeth) that they use to anchor themselves to the wall of the intestinal tract.  Once they have attached, they feed on the blood of their host. Hookworms are very small and are difficult to see with the naked eye, but the damage and the amount of blood they consume can be massive. Large numbers of hookworms in young puppies can cause severe anemia from the blood loss and many puppies can die without a blood transfusion.

Dogs can get hookworms many different ways. Young puppies can be infected while still in their mother’s womb directly through the placenta as well as through the milk when nursing. Because of this early infection, puppies should be de-wormed when they are just 2 weeks old and repeated every 2 weeks for the first few months of their lives. Monthly de-worming is recommended as a regular prevention.



Adult dogs can become infected by walking through contaminated soil where active larvae hatched from eggs deposited in fecal matter can penetrate directly through the pads of their feet. Once the larvae enter the skin, they then migrate through the body until they reach the lungs, at which time they are coughed up and swallowed. While the hookworms are migrating through the body, many can encyst in the muscle and lay dormant for many years. These are the source of hookworms that infect puppies while in the womb. After the hookworms are swallowed, they reach the intestinal tract and latch on to the wall of the intestine and start feeding on blood. The adult worms also mate and lay thousands of eggs that are passed in the feces. The eggs hatch into
larvae in moist warm environments which start the life cycle again. 11. Ancylostoma adults Hookworms

Humans can also become infected if walking barefoot through contaminated areas, however, the hookworms cannot complete their life cycle, but do cause a localized dermatitis where they penetrate the skin and can cause other problems while trying to migrate through the body.
Some people can have allergic reactions to the migrating worms.

Dogs can also be infected by ingesting the larvae, either by cleaning their feet or fur, or when drinking water or licking contaminated surfaces.


Because of the prevalence of hookworms in dogs, many veterinarians and the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) recommend routine de-worming with anthelmintics. Several of the newer flea and heartworm preventatives also include ingredients to remove hookworms and other parasites as well. Your puppy should be tested for hookworms as soon as your get him and follow your veterinarians recommendations for maintenance. Breeders should have the mother dog and young puppies dewormed every 2 weeks. Anthelmintics do not affect the dormant hookworms in the muscle.  Studies have shown that these hookworms can release during gestation and infect the puppies for up to seven
consecutive litters.

Signs of hookworm infection can include pale gums, a dark ,tarry stool, diarrhea, weight loss and failure to thrive.  Older dogs can develop diarrhea or dark, tarry stools.

You can limit the amount of hookworms deposited in your yard by cleaning up the fecal material and disposing of it. Fecal waste from dogs should not be used in compost bins, but there are special compost bins to handle the waste.

Ticks and your Pets

Ticks are eight legged parasites related to spiders and scorpions. Ticks feed on the blood of their host, injecting a numbing agent into the bite wound so their presence can go unnoticed for days while they are feeding. During their feeding, ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Ehrlichia to their host through the saliva.


The tick’s life cycle is different than insects. The female engorges on blood from her host, mates with a male tick and then detaches, dropping off her host to fall to the ground and seek a place to lay her eggs. The female can deposit 1,000 to 18,000 eggs, depending on the species of the tick, and then dies shortly after laying her eggs. The eggs will hatch anywhere between 2 months to 2 years depending on the species and climate conditions. The eggs hatch as larvae and seek a host to get a blood meal. Larvae ticks are very small and are often overlooked while they are on the host. Once they have engorged on their blood meal, they will drop off the host where they will molt and become a nymph. Again the nymph seeks out a blood meal, feed and then drop to the ground where they once more will molt and become an adult tick.


Species of Ticks


Amblyomma americanum

lone star tick


Amblyomma maculatum

Gulf Coast Tick

Dermacentor variabilis

American dog tick

Dermacentor andersoni

Rocky Mountain wood tick


Ixodes pacificus

western black-legged tick

Ixodes scapularis

black-legged tick


Otobius megnini

(spinose ear tick)

Rhipicephalus sanguineus

(Brown Dog Tick)

Diseases transmitted by ticks

  1. Anemia – The female tick can ingest more than 100 times her weight in blood. In severe infestations with thousands of ticks on a dog, it can cause severe blood loss resulting in anemia and may actually require blood transfusions to replenish the lost blood.
  2. Skin irritation and itching – The attached tick secrets chemical through her mouth parts in order to anchor herself to the skin and anti-coagulants to make it easier to suck the blood. These chemicals can cause irritation and allergic reactions resulting in more itching, swelling redness around the bite area.
  3. Tick Paralysis – Some species of ticks can produce a neurotoxin that can produce a sudden, progressive, flaccid (limp) paralysis of the muscles similar to that seen in Guillain-Barre syndrome. Once the offending tick is discovered and removed, the patient can quickly recover. Ticks discovered to produce the neurotoxin are D. andersoni, D. variabilis, A. americanum, A. maculatum, I. scapularis, and I. pacificus.
  4. Ehrlichia chaffeensis (human monocytic ehrlichiosis)
  5. Ehrlichia ewingii
  6. Borrelia lonestari
  7. Francella tularensis (tularemia)
  8. Hepatozoon americanum (American canine hepatozoonosis)
  9. Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever)
  10. Cytauxzoon felis (cytauxzoonosis)
  11. Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)
  12. Anaplasma phagocytophlium (human granulocytic ehrlichiosis)
  13. Ehrlichia canis (canine monocytic ehrlichiosis)
  14. Babesia canis (canine babesiosis)
  15. Anaplasma platys
  16. Babesia gibsoni

Tick control Products

  • Amitraz – is available as a dip, (mitaban), a collar (Preventic). Amitraz helps prevent tick attachment and can make the tick detach within 24 hours. The collar can last for several months, but do not allow your dog to chew on it because it can cause toxicity.
  • Fipronil – available in spray and spot on formulations (Merial Frontline).
  • The only product approved for tick control on cats is fipronil (frontline).
  • Permethrin – acts as a repellent and kills ticks within 24 hours. Products containing permethrin include Vectra 3D and K9 Advantix.
  • Selamectin – the active ingredient in Revolution is only effective against Dermacentor ticks and has a slower kill rate and may not be the best choice in heavy tick infestations.
  • Deltamethrin Scalibor- An impregnated dog band (collar) that kills fleas and ticks for 6 months
  • Bravecto – Bravecto kills adult fleas and is indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations (Ctenocephalides felis) and the treatment and control of tick infestations [Ixodes scapularis (black-legged tick), Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick), and Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick)] for 12 weeks in dogs and puppies 6 months of age and older, and weighing 4.4 pounds or greater.
    Bravecto is also indicated for the treatment and control of Amblyomma americanum (lone star tick) infestations for 8 weeks in dogs and puppies 6 months of age and older, and weighing 4.4 pounds or greater.


Most ticks infest dogs with an ambush technique called questing. When the ticks hatch, they climb up on to the tips of weeds, grasses and other vegetation. The ticks have a special sensory apparatus known as Haller’s organ that is located on their forelegs. With their forelegs extended, they can sense animals approaching. When the host brushes up against the vegetation, the ticks release in mass and crawl onto their new host to feed. Hundreds of ticks can release onto your pet at one time. The ticks also have seasonal cycles depending on the climate and geographic region.

Removing the tick

In cases where there are just a few ticks, can be done with tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and then with slow, gentle pressure, remove the tick from the skin. You should not crush the tick with your bare fingers because disease transmission to humans can be possible. Sometime, the tick can cause a mild infection at the site, especially if removed improperly and the head remained attached to the skin. In the event there are hundreds of ticks attached, you may want to take your dog to the veterinarian where special dips can be applied to facilitate removal.

Controlling ticks

If you live in an area that tick infestation is prevalent, then year round tick control is advised. If you are going camping with your dog then there are products that you can use prior to camping that will repel, kill or prevent infestation or quick release, depending on the product you use. As always, if your dog is having a tick problem, avoid over the counter medications, they are not as effective and can cause toxicity, especially if a product containing permethrin is accidentally applied to a cat. Your veterinarian will help you choose a product that will help with your flea, tick, and intestinal parasite control as well as heartworm prevention. It may be accomplished with one product or the combination of a few products. Care must be taken when mixing products because potential toxicity may occur.


Treating the yard

The prescription tick control products when applied according to the label directions should control your tick population. In some cases, additional yard treatment may be necessary to control ticks.

  • Clean up your yard to eliminate refuge areas for ticks and their wildlife hosts. This can be done by cutting back or burning tall grass, brush piles and weeds growing along fences, between runs and other structures. Sunlight penetration helps to dry out ticks and clearing the brush will reduce places for wildlife tick hosts to hide.
  • If you have a brown dog tick infestation in kennels, you can spray acaricides into cracks and crevices, under and behind cages and along the ceiling boards because ticks like to climb up.
  • Products that are effective against ticks in a kennel include cyfluthrin, premethrin, and s-fenvalarate.
  • These same products also work outside. Broadcast application of acaracide products is rarely necessary for tick control in yards. Rather spot treatment along fences, kennels and shady areas is preferred.
  • In the event of unusually heavy tick populations, you may find it necessary to restrict your pet’s access to the tick infested environments.

Effective yard flea and tick products

  • Bayer Advanced Lawn™ Complete Insect Killer – Active ingredients include Imidacloprid 0.72% and Beta-cyfluthrin 0.36%
  • Bayer Advanced Garden™ PowerForce® Multi-Insect Killer Ready-To-Spay Cyfluthrin 0.75%

Both products come in 32 oz ready to use bottles that can cover approximately 5,000 square feet

  • Do not allow the spray to get into fish ponds, streams or lakes.
  • Remove your pet’s food dishes before you spray
  • Keep your pets and children away from the treated area until the spray has dried completely.
  • Shake well before using to evenly distribute the product.
  • In heavy infestations, you may need to repeat the spraying every 7 to 14 days.
  • These products are ready to spray. Simply attach the bottle to your hose and be sure to follow the label directions precisely. The water from your hose will automatically mix with the concentrate to provide the correct mixture to your yard.
  • Also available is Bayer Advanced™ PowerForce® Multi-Insect Killer Ready to spread Granules.

Other products that are available

  • Conquer: Esfenvalerate 3.48%
  • Tempo Ultra WP Cyfluthrin 10.00%

Learn more about ticks from the CDC The Tick Handbook (click link to download pdf report)

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm Disease is a potentially life-threatening parasitic infection. Found worldwide, it infects wild and domestic dogs, sea lions, ferrets, and cats. In rare cases it can infect other animals and humans.

How Pets Get Heartworms
Heartworm Disease is caused by a worm, Dirofilaria immitis, and spread by mosquitoes. When a mosquito feeds on an infected animal, usually a dog, it ingests microscopic larvae in the blood. These microfilaria mature in the mosquito for about two weeks. When the mosquito bites a susceptible animal the infectious larvae are injected into its tissues. They migrate through the animals body, maturing into adult worms over a period of months. The adult worms live in the heart and major blood vessels where they reproduce to create new microfilaria. The time from infection to appearance of microfilaria is about six months.

Dogs are highly susceptible to heartworm infection, while it is much less common in other domestic animals such as cats and ferrets.

In the United States, heartworms are found in all 50 states but are most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and near the Mississippi River

What the Disease Does
The severity of the disease is related to the number of adult worms present. Adult worms cause inflammation of the blood vessels and the lungs. The disease can progress to heart failure, liver failure, and rupture of major blood vessels. Dogs with heartworms do not always show symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease or if only a few adult heartworms are present. When symptoms do occur, they include coughing, tiring easily during exercise, difficulty breathing, fluid in the abdomen, fainting, and death.

Symptoms in ferrets resemble those in dogs. Symptoms in cats include coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and seizures. Cats and ferrets may die without exhibiting any symptoms.

How Heartworm Disease is Diagnosed
Adult heartworms can be detected with a simple blood test. Pets that test positive should undergo additional testing to determine the stage of the disease. Recommended procedures include a blood screen for microfilaria and chest x-rays. Prior to initiating treatment, dogs should have a complete blood panel. EKGs, echocardiograms, and angiograms may also be recommended.

Treatment for Heartworm Disease
Dogs are treated with drugs that are able to kill the adult heartworms, but are also potentially fatal for the dog. Therefore, treatment is performed in the hospital where the dog can be carefully monitored and treated for toxicity if necessary. Treatment may need to be repeated more than once, and can be quite costly. Dogs that initially test positive for microfilaria undergo a second stage of treatment. Treatment for microfilaria is not as dangerous and is usually given on an outpatient basis, three to six weeks after treatment for adult worms.

Successful treatment is confirmed by testing again for adult worms and for microfilaria.

Complications are more common in cats and ferrets treated for adult heartworms, so it is sometimes safer to wait for the worms to die naturally. Anti-inflammatories and other medications may be used to control symptoms. These pets rarely develop microfilaria, but those that do can be treated similarly to dogs.

Preventing Heartworm Disease
Fortunately, effective preventive medications are available to protect dogs, cats, and ferrets. Most are given monthly and can be started as early as 4-6 weeks of age. Pets started on preventive medications before six months of age are tested after they have been on the medication for at least six months. Pets that begin heartworm prevention after six months of age should be tested before the preventive is given the first time, and again after six months. Annual retesting is recommended by most veterinarians. Preventive is given seasonally in some parts of the U.S., but year-round in temperate areas. If a dose is missed, its best to give it as soon as possible and check with your veterinarian about the need for a heartworm test.

Heartworms in Cats

heartworms in catsHeartworm Disease is a potentially life-threatening parasitic infection. Found worldwide, it mainly affects dogs and their wild relatives. However, it causes serious disease in some cats as well.

How Pets Get Heartworms
Heartworm Disease is caused by a worm, Dirofilaria immitis, and is spread by mosquitoes. When a mosquito feeds on an infected animal, usually a dog, it ingests microscopic larvae in the blood. These microfilariae mature in the mosquito for about two weeks. When the mosquito bites a susceptible animal the infectious larvae are injected into its tissues. They migrate through the animals body, maturing into adult worms over a period of months. The adult worms live in the heart and major blood vessels where they reproduce to create new microfilariae. The time from infection to appearance of microfilariae is about six months.

Cats seem to have a greater natural resistance against heartworms as compared to dogs. The prevalence of the disease in cats ranges from 0% to about 9% depending on geographic area. In the United States, heartworms are found in all 50 states but are most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and near the Mississippi River. When cats do get heartworms, they usually only develop one or a few adult worms. The worms rarely reproduce or produce microfilariae.

What the Disease Does
Adult worms cause inflammation of the blood vessels and the lungs, and can obstruct arteries. They can live in a cats body as long as two or three years, but may be killed sooner by the animals immune system. As worms die, they release antigens that can create life-threatening inflammatory reactions.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats are vague. They include coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and seizures. Some cats die suddenly without showing any other symptoms.

How Heartworm Disease is Diagnosed
Diagnosis of heartworms in cats is more difficult as compared with dogs. Blood tests for antibodies to heartworm are useful initially. However, the antibody test determines only whether the cat has been exposed. It will not differentiate between an infected cat and a cat that was exposed but fought off the infection. Therefore, antibody-positive cats should receive further testing. A blood test for the presence of the adult heartworm (antigen test) is often the second step. A positive antigen test confirms the presence of heartworms. However, the test can miss some infected cats, so other diagnostics may be needed too. These include physical examination, blood counts, microfilaria tests, x-rays, ultrasound, and angiography.

Treatment for Heartworm Disease
There are no medicines currently approved for treatment of feline heartworm disease in the United States. Cats with mild symptoms are monitored carefully and may be given anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids to minimize lung inflammation. A physical exam and x-rays are recommended twice a year. The goal is to support the cat until the worms have died and the inflammation has subsided. Cats with more serious symptoms are usually hospitalized and may require additional medications, such as bronchodilators, IV fluids, oxygen, and antibiotics.

Medications designed for killing adult heartworms in dogs are sometimes used to treat cats. This is considered an experimental use of these drugs and is undertaken with great caution, since the risk of fatal side effects is relatively high. Even more rarely, adult worms may be surgically extracted from a cats heart.

Preventing Heartworm Disease
Fortunately, effective preventive medications are available. They are given monthly and can be started as early as 4-6 weeks of age. Preventive medication is recommended for cats in areas where heartworms are common. Cats should be tested for heartworm before starting preventive treatment, and retested annually. Preventive is given seasonally in some parts of the U.S., but year-round in temperate areas. If a dose is missed, its best to give it as soon as possible and check with your veterinarian about the need for a heartworm test.

Visit the Heartworm Society for more information on cat heartworms

Summer time brings pesky parasites

Summertime temperatures are often a welcome relief for both people and pets, with cases of cabin fever. Unfortunately, the warm up also brings out those persistent perennial parasites… Fleas!

With an ability to jump 12-18 inches from a standstill, the 1/8″ long common cat flea is one of the hardiest pests that our dogs and cats will encounter. An appetite for blood, an uncanny ability to reproduce, and a short life cycle make this parasite difficult to control or eradicate. What’s worse, the fleas can carry diseases that can affect our pets and us! How can we help protect our dogs and cats from this annual menace?

Several thousand species of fleas exist, but the cat flea is the most common throughout the United States and Canada. Feeding on the blood of dogs and cats, occasionally these fleas may even choose to dine on us! With a preference for warm weather and higher humidity, fleas are most often encountered during the spring and summer months. It may come as no surprise to many that the increasing global temperatures are lengthening the flea season for many pets across the United States. In addition our warm homes in winter create a livable environment so fleas can quickly become a year-round problem!

Once adult fleas attack your pet, you can expect to have flea eggs in the environment within about 36 hours. These small oblong eggs will fall off of the pet into the carpet, bedding, or yard and actually hatch into larval forms of the flea within 1-10 days. The larval forms will spend time munching on organic debris, such as dead skin cells and flea dirt. The larvae then form cocoons from materials it finds in the environment. The adult fleas can actually hatch out of the cocoon within 1 second when stimulated by light, movement, or heat. Given optimal conditions of humidity and temperature, this flea life cycle can be completed in as little as 12 days!

Besides their ability to reproduce quickly, fleas also can reproduce in almost unimaginable numbers. A single female flea has the ability to lay about 2000 eggs during her short 100 day lifetime and a group of 25 female fleas can swell to thousands in just 30 short days! To make matters worse, adult fleas comprise just 5% of the total flea population in the environment; more than 95% are present as eggs, larvae, or the hardy cocoon.

Although itchy pets are the hallmark of a flea infestation, fleas also bring several other concerns to pets and their owners. Severe infestations of fleas can actually cause young kittens or puppies and older pets to become anemic from blood loss. Blood parasites, as well as intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms, are commonly spread through fleas. More serious infectious diseases of humans, such as bubonic plague and cat scratch disease are also connected with these tiny pests.

Fortunately, recent advances in flea control technology have given the pet owner a wide range of products that are not only effective, but very gentle as well. Utilizing differences between mammal and insect physiology, leading veterinary pharmaceutical companies have developed long lasting insecticides for our pets.

Although many flea control products can be found in over the counter outlets, pet owners are urged to see their family veterinarian before choosing a product. Some of the pesticides that can be found in grocery stores, TV ads and mass merchants should not be used on certain pets, such as cats.

The flea control products that are recommended by veterinarians have additional benefits above control of the adult fleas. These products will actually help to break the life cycle of the flea by killing the adult flea before they have time to reproduce. Most flea products sold at veterinarians will actually kill the adult fleas within 24 hours of application and this speed of kill helps prevent the females from laying eggs.

Your veterinarian can help you decide what product is going to be best for you based on several factors: what type of pets you have, what part of the country you live in, and what other parasites your pets are exposed to routinely. As an added bonus, your veterinarian is available to you if you have concerns about the performance of the flea products.