When you bring a new puppy home, you’re thinking of all the wonderful, fun parts of owning a furry bundle of joy—snuggles on the couch, a constantly wagging tail, and puppy breath. But, your new pup may come with more than you bargained for. In fact, many—if not most—new puppies join their new families with some additional baggage in the form of parasites that reside in their intestines or on their skin. Unfortunately, some of these parasites can be transmitted to you, causing nasty diseases. Parasites that can pass diseases from pets to people are termed zoonotic parasites. Learn how to protect your pet and your family from the following five most common zoonotic parasites.    

#1: Roundworms in puppies

Roundworms are commonly described as “spaghetti worms” by new puppy owners. Long, thin, and white, roundworms can pass in your pet’s stool, or in severe cases, in their vomit. Some infected puppies won’t show any signs, but most have of the following:

  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dull coat
  • Weight loss

Puppies may get roundworms from their mother or their environment. They swallow roundworm eggs, which then hatch and travel up the trachea, where the larvae are coughed up and swallowed again. The roundworm larvae grow into adults in your puppy’s intestines, and are shed in their stool.

You can get roundworms from your puppy through poor hygiene, or if your puppy licks your mouth after ingesting infective feces. Always wash your hands after picking up after your puppy, and try to prevent them from licking your mouth.

#2: Hookworms in puppies

Another common intestinal parasite in puppies, hookworms cause many of the same signs as roundworms. However, hookworms attach to your pet’s intestinal walls, which can cause anemia, pale gums, and weakness. People can develop a hookworm infection by walking through contaminated soil, so cleaning up after your pet is essential to avoid infection. Although human intestinal infections are rare, the worms can penetrate your skin and cause an itchy rash, typically on the feet.

#3: Giardia in puppies

Giardiasis differs from roundworms and hookworms in that a protozoan parasite is the cause, but your pet’s gastrointestinal system is still affected, causing vomiting and diarrhea. However, many pets with giardiasis show no signs. To develop an infection, your puppy will generally ingest Giardia cysts from contaminated soil or water, followed by intermittent, foul-smelling, watery diarrhea.

You can develop giardiasis in the same manner, but cyst ingestion from contaminated water bodies is the most common method. Failing to wash your hands after cleaning up after your puppy may also transmit Giardia.

#4: Fleas in puppies

Fleas are tiny, athletic ectoparasites that reside on your pet’s skin, biting and taking blood meals to continue their life cycle. Capable of jumping great distances, fleas can also jump onto you. Signs your puppy may be suffering from fleas include itching and chewing at their skin, hot spots, inflamed skin, hair loss, and tapeworms. If your puppy has fleas, they will likely be the preferred host, but fleas can move onto you, along with their various side effects of itching and tapeworms.

#5: Ticks in puppies

Ticks are another parasite that like to latch onto your puppy for a meal. While ticks generally stay on one host until they finish feeding and then drop off to advance to their next life stage, pets can bring ticks into your home. Ticks cause many illnesses, including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and numerous others. Ticks must be attached for several hours or days to transmit pathogens, so prompt detection and removal is vital for preventing disease spread. 

How can I protect my puppy from parasites?

The best way to protect your puppy from parasites is to schedule a wellness visit with Dr. Man as soon as you welcome your new pup home. During this first visit, our team will examine a fecal sample for intestinal parasites, and conduct a physical exam to check for external parasites. Once your pet has a clean bill of health—or requires deworming treatment—we’ll begin a parasite prevention protocol. 

An excellent option for puppies six months and older is an injection called ProHeart 6, which is given twice yearly and protects your puppy from heartworms, the deadly parasites transmitted by mosquitoes. ProHeart 6 also protects them from intestinal larval and adult hookworms. At 12 months of age, you can switch your puppy to ProHeart 12, an injection that lasts a full 12 months, as explained in Dr. Man’s video blog. Your puppy will also require flea and tick prevention, along with an intestinal deworming product, to ensure no bugs are brought home to you and your family. During your pet’s visit, we’ll discuss the best options to keep your furry pal safe. By protecting your puppy from parasites, you also protect your entire family from parasitic diseases.

Has your household expanded by four furry feet? If so, set up a wellness visit with our Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital team to check your new puppy for parasites. Give us a call and schedule an appointment.