Eating beetles can make dogs sick

Parasite dog

Dogs are still often presented in the practice with parasite infestation. In this post we clarify the most important questions and give you a summary on the subject of parasites in dogs.

Parasites Dog: Definitions

Endoparasites: worms and protozoa that live in internal organs such as the intestines, lungs or heart.

Ectoparasites: mites, fleas, ticks etc. that parasitize on the surface of the body.

Host: Animal infected by the parasite (including humans). The target or ultimate host is the one to whom the parasite is best adapted and in which it reproduces. Intermediate hosts serve for further development (e.g. from egg to larva) and distribution. Intermediate hosts thus also function as so-called “vectors”, as carriers. False hosts are those that are severely damaged by the parasite or in which it cannot (well) multiply.

A certain period of time elapses from infection with a parasite to the excretion of contagious (infectious) particles such as eggs. It is of different length for each parasite and is relevant for later diagnostics: the dog may already be infected with parasites, but these do not yet excrete eggs and cannot be detected in the faeces, for example.

Zoonosis: Zoonoses are diseases that can pass from animals to humans.


Parasites Dog: Why Are They Problematic?

Many dog ​​parasites are also infectious for humans, which is why the dog should not carry any parasites. Often times, healthy, adult dogs show no symptoms even though they are infected. Unfortunately, this often means that they are not regularly treated for parasites. They can be particularly dangerous for young, old and immunocompromised dogs.

In many places there is a very high density of dogs, so that the parasites can spread well. This applies in particular to boarding houses, animal shelters or larger groups of dogs in one keeping, but also to dog places or areas with a high proportion of dog-keeping households. In this way, the little pests reliably find new hosts in which they can multiply. In addition, foxes carry the same parasites by and large. They also spread this in the city, where the fox is often at home as a cultural follower.

Increasing travel by dogs and the import of animals from animal welfare projects from southern and eastern Europe has made parasites such as leishmania and heartworms that were previously considered "exotic" visible in German veterinary practices. With increasing warmth (climate change), their intermediate hosts such as mosquitoes and ticks also become at home in our latitudes, so that these parasites can stay here in the foreseeable future. And: As winters become milder, fewer and fewer parasites take their typical “winter break”. So the dog must be protected from them all year round.


Parasites dog: which ones are important?

Here is a brief explanation of important dog parasites (Of course, this does not claim to be complete.).

Endoparasite dog



Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and whipworms parasitize the small or large intestines of dogs. They are usually unproblematic for adult animals. Puppies in particular suffer from diarrhea and emaciation when the disease is more severe. In addition to the oral ingestion of the eggs or larvae, roundworms, for example, can also be transmitted from the bitch to the puppies in the uterus or with the mother's milk. The latter also applies to hookworms, the dog can also become infected with them through the skin, which some species can actively pierce.

Caution: The small fox tapeworm can also be a tapeworm in dogs. Infection with it is life-threatening for humans, which is why good prevention is so important for our pets! Due to the fox populations that live close to humans, dogs (and cats too) can become infected with this parasite.

But worms are not just intestinal parasites in dogs: dog lungworms live and multiply in the lungs. Their larvae are coughed up, swallowed and excreted with the feces. They cause coughs and fevers and are particularly dangerous to young animals.

Heartworms parasitize the heart and pulmonary arteries. They cause breathing problems, coughing and a reduced capacity to exercise. They are transmitted by mosquitoes. The heartworm in dogs has so far been a motion sickness, but its intermediate host always feels comfortable further north.


Single cell:

Giardia in dogs, such as Cryptosporidia and other protozoa (unicellular organisms), live in the intestine and cause diarrhea of ​​varying severity, which can be short or long-lasting. Puppies are particularly affected; in older dogs, the infections are often symptom-free. The excreted oocysts (reproduction stages, similar to eggs) are ingested orally, e.g. via faeces or the contaminated environment. The Giardia treatment is often lengthy, especially in larger groups of dogs.

Leishmanias are also unicellular parasites that attack the dog's immune system. They are mainly transmitted by special mosquitoes and so far have mainly been spread in southern and central Europe. However, its limit of spread is shifting further and further north. Leishmaniasis manifests itself in various, differently pronounced problems: The most common are changes in the skin and lameness. Reduced resilience, weight loss and movement disorders are also common. The disease is chronic and long-term, complex treatment is necessary.

The babesia transmitted by ticks infects the red blood cells (erythrocytes). Babesia, too, was previously more likely to be found in Mediterranean latitudes, but now they are also at home in Central Europe and are also spreading in our country. Depending on the Babesia species with which the dogs are infected and the condition of the dog beforehand (young or old, healthy or already weakened), the severity of the course varies. Fever and anemia (anemia) are common, vomiting and yellowing of the mucus (jaundice) are also possible. Disorders of the respiratory and digestive tracts occur less frequently. Babesiosis can be life-threatening!

Anaplasmosis is transmitted by ticks. The pathogen attacks cells of the immune system and causes a fever. It is detected with a special laboratory test (PCR, polymerase chain reaction), since the detection of antibodies does not reliably indicate an infection.

There are other unicellular infections in dogs such as Neospora and Toxoplasma.

Ectoparasite dog

Although ticks suck blood, they are especially important as carriers of e.g. Babesia, Anaplasma and Borrelia (tick diseases) and should therefore always be removed quickly. They can be found in grass, bushes and undergrowth.

Mites cause severe itching, dull fur, and dandruff. Some are very contagious from dog to dog or via e.g. blankets and brushes. The clinical picture is sometimes similar to that of atopic dermatitis.

Demodicosis is a special disease: Demodex mites live in the hair follicles of healthy dogs. How the disease develops has not yet been conclusively clarified. One thing is certain: In the event of an immune deficiency (due to other diseases, stress), the mites multiply on a massive scale. As a result, hair loss, pustules and redness occur, which can later become infected with bacteria or fungi and then begin to itch.

Ear mites in dogs cause severe itching and ear infections. So a dog with ear mites will scratch its ears, rub its head on the floor, and shake. The larvae of the autumn grass mites usually attack dogs in August to October and often where windfalls can be found. They are visible to the naked eye as red dots, often in the folds of the toes or ears. Severe itching follows. The event can be dealt with without any problems.

Fleas are widespread, not host-specific and serve as vectors for e.g. tapeworms. They suck blood and can cause flea allergy. A flea infestation can be recognized by the itching, but skin changes can also occur. In the case of allergies in particular, these only arise from strong scratching. Fleas are visible to the naked eye, in the fur and on sleeping places, etc. The flea excrement shows up in dark crumbs. When dissolved in water, it turns red (undigested blood) to differentiate it from dirt, which remains gray.

Lice and lice are now rarely found in dogs. They cause itching and are transmitted from dog to dog.


Parasites dog: diagnosis

Many parasites “reveal” themselves through relatively typical symptoms. However, in adult dogs, the infection can often pass without any signs. Then further examinations help:

  • Faecal examination: Provides information about parasites in the gastrointestinal tract. Detection of eggs or metabolic products of the parasites, depending on the method.
  • Skin examination: A thorough examination of the skin and fur with a magnifying glass and a fine comb is necessary if ectoparasites are suspected. A scraping (removal of skin cells with a scalpel) may also be necessary. Live mites and fleas can be seen under the magnifying glass, with a flea comb, for example, you can find flea droppings.
  • Adhesive film preparation: A piece of adhesive film is dabbed onto an area of ​​skin and the adhering material is examined under the microscope. Applies to ectoparasites, but also to eggs adhering to the fur of e.g. tapeworms.
  • Blood test: To find antibodies against Leishmania, Babesia or to detect typical changes in the blood in the case of parasite infestation, a blood test is useful if there is a suspicion. Also for parasite detection using PCR (see above).
  • Further examinations, such as biopsies or smears, may be necessary (e.g. puncture of a joint or the bone marrow in leishmaniasis).


Parasites dog: treatment

Once your dog has found lodgers, there are usually effective ways to get rid of them. Individual diseases, such as leishmaniasis, can be very difficult or even impossible to treat. It is also important to treat the surrounding area as well: If a flea infestation has been found, the associated apartment must be cleaned thoroughly and the treatment extends over 6 months, as the eggs, larvae, etc. are extremely resistant. All other pets must also be checked or treated, otherwise the parasites will come back within a short time.

We do not recommend using home remedies against ear mites in dogs, especially not if you already have an ear infection. It definitely belongs to the vet!


Parasites dog: prophylaxis

Regular preventive treatment of the dog against parasites is worthwhile, as it is much less time-consuming and uncomfortable than treating infections. There are “spot-on” preparations for putting on the skin, pastes, tablets or collars that are easy to use for you as the owner.

A distinction can be made between repellants (substances that keep parasites away) and regular preventive treatment. Repellants (collars, spot-ons) keep away fleas and ticks, for example, which the permanently released substance does not "taste" on the skin. In contrast, a regularly administered gastrointestinal worm tablet will kill the worms that are present; but it cannot prevent new infections. Pregnant bitches should be particularly well dewormed so that the puppies do not become infected with hookworms or roundworms.

In the case of intermediate hosts, combating them also helps:

  • You should remove ticks correctly as soon as possible after they have been discovered: To do this, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible with a tick tweezer and gently twist it until it loosens. Alternatively, hook the tick hook and turn it as well. Do not pull too hard, then the front part of the tick will stay in the skin and cause inflammation.
  • When on vacation in the south, you take protection against mosquitoes. (Stay in closed rooms at dusk and in the dark, use insect sprays, attach nets.)
  • Fleas transmit dog tapeworms - so the dog should also be protected from fleas.

With larger groups of dogs or breeds, the importance of prophylaxis and hygiene increases again, as parasites can spread even more here.

Vaccinations are now available against Babesia and Leishmania, but they are not yet approved everywhere.

Talk to your veterinarian about which method is best for your dog and how often it should be used!

The following applies to you as the owner: You should wash your hands after every contact with the dog and especially before eating. Also, teach this rule to all children who cuddle the dog.


Parasite dog: conclusion

There are a large number of parasites found in dogs. To avoid damage, your dog should be checked regularly and protected against parasites. This will protect yourself too. Talk to your vet about the best option!


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