Breeding, Diarrhea Solutions, Fleas, Internal Parasites and Deworming, Shelter and Rescue Resources
Intestinal Parasites in Dogs Webinar
February 3, 2023
This internal parasites in dogs webinar with Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, DVM will answer your most common questions when it comes to dogs and parasites:
• What are signs of parasites in dogs?
• What are the most common dog parasites?
• Why does my dog keep getting parasites?
• What is the best parasite prevention for dogs?
• What dewormers are safe for pregnant and nursing dogs?
• When is the best time to deworm a pregnant dog?
• And more!
What to Do Before Deworming a Dog
The first part of deworming a dog is to really weigh your dog’s accurately, whether it’s a puppy or an adult dog. Get an accurate weight on that patient before you start administering deworming medication. Giving the wrong dose of medication may be too much. It may be toxic if you give not enough, it’s not going to work well. So use a scale. You can get a platform scale for not a lot of money for your kennel. If you have large breed dogs, I would strongly encourage you to do that. Smaller scales to weigh your puppies again are very affordable. And I like the small scales that weigh in both grams and ounces. So I encourage you to have a small scale. And if you have large breed dogs, a large scale.
Secondly, you want to calculate the dose accurately. So don’t hold the puppy up and say, well, I think it’s about 2 lb., so I’m going to give about one CC. That’s not good enough. You really need to calculate the dose accurately. Now, if you have medication that comes as a suspension such as fenbendazole, such as Albon, such as Nemex, such as Strongid, when you first get that bottle, the very day it comes from Revival in your little box, take it out, shake it really well, like a paint shaker, like get the whole thing suspended and then break it down into smaller bottles so that you’ve got those for two reasons. One is it’s going to give you a more uniform distribution through that dose of medication, through the whole liter of the medication that you’re using. Number two, some of the medications are sensitive to exposure to air. And if you have it in a smaller bottle, there’s less air exposure. So the medication will stay potent longer. So Revival has these extra bottles. All you have to do is go online, include those with your order, and then when you get them. So depending on what you’re getting, you may want to get a couple of four ounce bottles so that you’ve got enough to distribute a 16 ounce bottle. You need four of them if you’re getting a bigger bottles and of course get more. But I would encourage you to get two to four ounce bottles so that you can break it down into smaller quantities.
When you’re using some of these large animal medications, which we’re going to talk about a little bit, don’t use the tubes of medications. Use the suspensions. So get the big bottles of suspension. The tubes of medication, number one are meant for a 1,500 pound animal. It’s very difficult to accurately dose that. And number two, it tends not to have the medication uniformly suspended through that tube, and it’s very hard to suspend it equally. So don’t get the tubes of paste, get the bottles of medication.
You need to remove organic material before you try to disinfect. If you try to disinfect through organic material, the disinfectant won’t work. So if you’re having a struggle with parvo, with parasites, with kennel cough, with any of the infectious diseases, the first thing you need to do before you disinfect is remove the organic material, pick it up, use soap as a surfactant, maybe steam clean, and then use your disinfectant and follow the disinfectant directions. Use the right dilution; more is not better. Use the right amount. Don’t guess don’t pour some into a bigger bucket and then figure out how much is there. You need to measure it because it tells you on the package. And don’t mixed disinfectants together because some can form a toxic gas. I was told about somebody the other day whose technician mixed two things together and ended up in the hospital with a very severe burn in her lungs. So just don’t mix things together. Bleach does not play nice with other things. You can use bleach, but don’t use it in the same bucket or the same bottle as some of the other products.
Keep reading to learn more about intestinal parasites for dogs, roundworms, hookworms whipworms, tapeworms. And of course, this lists heartworm, which is not an intestinal parasite, but still is a parasite that we commonly see in dogs.
We’re going to talk about the appearance of the parasite, what is lifecycle is, the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
What is a Parasite in a Dog
So our very first question is what is a parasite? A parasite is by definition an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species, its host, and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense. So by definition, your children cannot be parasites because they’re the same species.
So first and foremost, it’s a species different than your own, and it’s deriving nutrients from that host. And a good parasite will not kill its host because a dead parasite can’t continue to take care of the host of the parasite. So in general, a parasite may make you sick or run you down a little, but a great parasite will not do so much damage to the host (the species that it’s living in) that it will lead to its (the host’s) demise because that’s inefficient.
What is a Zoonotic Disease in Dogs
What is a zoonotic disease? That’s a disease that can be passed from people to pets and people and pets to people. That’s really important because some of the parasites that we’re going to learn about have some significant health impacts on humans. So we’re going to talk about preventing it.
The number one thing is going to be parasite control in the pet and the environment. That means you’re not just protecting the pet that you’re living with from a parasite, you’re protecting you, your family, everyone involved with that pet, you’re protecting them as well.
If you’re selling pets into the pet market, you have to be really aware that if you’re selling a puppy to a family that may have someone that’s very young, a child, someone who is immunocompromised because they’re on chemotherapy or on medication for an autoimmune disease or they’ve got AIDS or some other condition, you are going to have a patient then that’s a little bit more vulnerable to picking up a zoonotic disease. So it’s important that we get good control. People can even get heartworm. It’s pretty rare, but people can get heartworm disease. People can get a lot of these intestinal parasites we’re going to talk about. So in the interest of you and your reputation and what you’re selling pets into the market for, you need great parasite control.
You also need vector control for things like mosquitoes, ticks, fleas. Those are all important because those are vectors of disease. And then, of course, you’ve got hand-washing and good hygiene. So keep the yard picked up, keep the kennel picked up, don’t leave feces laying around. Wash your hands after you’ve handled any of these things. Really be careful with your hygiene.
What kind of zoonotic diseases can we see? Well, we can see cryptosporidium. And that was something that in Milwaukee about 20 years ago, 400,000 people in Milwaukee got cryptosporidium, 400,000, half of the population in Milwaukee. It was so bad that when you would call the doctor, they would say, Don’t come in. We can’t see you sort of like what we saw during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Or trichinosis, trichinella. That’s what we used to see in pork back in the thirties when pigs were fed garbage and they no longer are. We don’t worry about trichinosis in pigs anymore. So you can eat your pork slightly pink. It’s not required that you cook it in the shoe leather consistency anymore because trichinosis is pretty well taken care of in pigs.
Baylisascaris is spread through raccoon feces. Roundworms and hookworms. Very, very, very common parasites in our dogs and cats that live in our homes. Most tapeworms are not contagious to people that we see in dogs but a kind of echinococcus. And we’re going to talk about that. That’s a very serious disease in people. Of course, ticks. Ticks we share with dogs and other animals. And toxoplasmosis in cats. Many of you have probably heard of toxo. That’s something that we worry about. The cats can spread to pregnant women and cause damage to the fetus. As long as your cat doesn’t go outside or you clean your litter box every 24 hours or less, you are not susceptible to toxo. But if you can talk your significant other into cleaning the litter box while you’re pregnant, go for it. So what do I need to say about zoonotic diseases? Not much more. Practice good hygiene.
What Are The Most Common Intestinal Parasites in Dogs
The most common worms that we see in dogs are going to be roundworms and hookworms. We also see heartworm with worms and tapeworms. So in this order, this is the frequency that we see them in.
There are other intestinal parasites that we see commonly in dogs that are not worms, and those are going to be giardia and coccidia.
How Serious are Roundworms in Dogs
We’re going to talk about roundworms first because they are the most common intestinal worms. They live in the intestines and somehow manage to swim upstream when other food is going through. They manage to swim upstream and stay in the dog’s intestinal tract. The life cycle is important because it can be spread fecal-oral, meaning that you can, in the dog or a person, ingest the eggs of the parasite and end up with a parasite, parasite infestation. But children can also ingest these roundworms. You hear about sandboxes keeping the sandbox as covered for toxo and for roundworms.
Fecal-oral is the most common transmission, but it can also occur transplacentally in the dog. This is the only parasite that goes transplacental that I’m aware of. So in other words, when the female is pregnant, if at any point in her life, if she ever had roundworms ever, even as a puppy, even though you dewormed her, even though her fecal is negative, even though you have wormed until you can’t deworm anymore, if she had roundworms as a puppy, the stress of pregnancy and lactation will reactivate those parasites. They go out of a cyst in her muscles, enter the bloodstream into the circulation across the placenta and into the puppies. So when you hear people say puppies can be born with worms, this is why this is how is puppies can be born with worms.
Symptoms of Roundworms in Dogs
Symptoms of roundworms in dogs and cats include diarrhea, weight loss, roundworms in the vomiting or the stool. I had a phone call the other day from a cat that vomited up a roundworm. Pretty common. Dogs and cats with roundworms also have a potbellied appearance. They just generally don’t look thrifty. They’re kind of scrawny looking across the back and kind of potbellied in the belly.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Roundworms
You can see the roundworms pass in the stool or see them in the vomit. That’s relatively common. I have pulled dog laundry out of my washing machine and found roundworms in there. So unfortunately, that’s pretty unpleasant. If you take a stool sample to your veterinarian, they will put it with a special solution, put it in a centrifuge, look at that sample under the microscope, and they will see the eggs. There’s also an ELISA test run at some of the diagnostic labs to diagnose roundworms.
How to Get Rid of Roundworms in Dogs
Treatment for roundworms in dogs consists of either using Nemex or Strongid. Nemex and Strongid have the same active ingredient; they’re both pyrantel pamoate. One is a small animal product, Nemex is for a small animal. Strongid is for a large animal. So there’s a difference in how it’s dosed, but they’re both the same intestinal parasite product and they both are very effective.
The other thing that is effective is piperazine. But many people don’t use piperazine. anymore. It’s very inexpensive, it’s very safe, but it has a really sour taste to it and a very strange smell to it. When I was a little kid with pinworms, and I can still remember the smell of piperazine. And so I personally don’t buy it and use it in my practice because when I open the bottle, I’m like, “Oh, this is terrible.” So I don’t do it. But new medicines are both flavored. They’re very pleasant. They’re kind of a banana pudding flavor. They go down dogs very easily. I can just squirt it in the bowl and the dogs will lick the bowl clean.
Fenbendazole also can be used. It’s labeled for puppies over six weeks of age. And then selamectin actually is not labeled in dogs for roundworms, but it is labeled for cats and roundworms. I was a little curious about this because I think there’s a lot of people who are still relying on selamectin as a good intestinal parasite control product for roundworms and hookworms in dogs. In a reality it doesn’t work that way. I was looking through the labels and was kind of curious about it, so I called the company that makes it. And the reason for that is that the selamectin is a topical product called Revolution. It’s put over the shoulders and it doesn’t work very well in dogs for intestinal parasites because it doesn’t reach high enough levels. But cats have a better level of selamectin than in dogs because they self-groom. And so when the drug is applied topically to cats, it’s picked up in the bloodstream, carried into the circulation, and then redistributed in the oil glands of the skin. On a dog, it just makes one pass and then it’s done. In the cat because they continually groom themselves. they’re re ingesting that selamectin. So we get roundworm control and hookworm control in cats with selamectin but not dogs. So please do not rely on it as being the only product that you use for roundworm or hookworm control in the dog.
How to Prevent Roundworms and Hookworms in Dogs
Roundworm and hookworm prevention consists of pyrantel pamoate. In dogs under 10 lb. in my world, I use Nemex because I want to be accurate in my dosing and that’s dosed at one cc for 2 lb. of body weight. Strongid is ten times more concentrated, and some people dose it at one for 20 lb., some people dose that at 10. I personally use it at one for 20 but either dose is fine and they’re just as safe. So you use one smaller dose with Nemex too, because it’s this small animal product and then Strongid is the large animal product. Again, this is the suspension that you want to shake well when you get it. These can be dosed at two, four, six and eight weeks, but you can start as early as one week of age.
If you have a significant problem with roundworms and or hookworms in your facility, you can deworm weekly. The minimum recommendation is at two, four, six and eight weeks, but you can use it at a higher and more frequent dose. It will not prevent transplacental transmission of roundworms. And like I said, piperazine is another good drug, but you have to measure it.
I had a client that took a gallon of piperazine and dumped some into his puppy and the puppy came in toxic. So you can overdose these medications. Please weigh the puppy and please accurately dose your med.
Parasite Prevention protocol for During Pregnancy and Whelping
Another way that we can prevent the roundworms, both prevent them in the intestinal tract of a dog and to prevent the transplacental transmission is to give fenbendazole during pregnancy and lactation. If you use a 10% suspension, this is the large animal product. You can buy a liter of it. One liter will basically worm a 60 lb. dog through her entire pregnancy twice. So it’s a lot of drug, but it’s a lot less expensive than having sick puppies. You don’t lose puppies this way and you don’t have to take the sick puppies to the vet. So you’re going to come out in the long run saving money. So this is the dose of the suspension, not the paste, per 4 lb. of body weight. And you do that once a day from three weeks before she’s due to whelp. So day 42 through the second week after whelping, so it’s until the puppies are 14 days old. So from day 42 of pregnancy to day 14 of lactation, every single day, once a day for five weeks. Is this fun? Absolutely not. Is it effective? Unbelievably.
Can you talk to your vet about this? Please do. And if they say to you, I’ve never heard of this, this must be a new protocol. Well, the original protocol was published in 1983. That was a year after I graduated. So that was 40 years ago. So your vet is probably younger than me or if they’re not, I will give them an excuse for not knowing about this protocol. But it is not a new protocol. It has been established in the literature for a long time and the people who do a lot of canine reproductive services use this protocol very reliably.
When I’ve done this with clients’ dogs and we do the ultrasound, what we’ll do is confirm pregnancy at the ultrasound and then we’ll talk to them about taking this product home with them. Once we confirm that the female is pregnant, I get clients come in and throw their arms around me when their puppies are at their eight week visit and say, Dr. Greer, I have never had such healthy puppies. I can’t believe it. Because instead of having that parasite migration through the gut and making the puppies sick and having diarrhea and all that stuff happening at the same time you’re trying to wean them. They don’t feel good. They come in kind of puny, They’re sick. You’re going to have sick puppies if you don’t do something like this. The other thing is, you’re more likely to have parvovirus, coronavirus, other diseases in the GI tract if you have parasites on top of having an otherwise rundown puppy. So this will really make a difference in your breeding program if you’re struggling with roundworms or hookworms. Now selamectin can also be used. Selamectin is the same thing as Revolution.
Is Ivermectin Good For Deworming Dogs
I don’t use the ivermectin protocol because there are too many dogs that can become toxic on the ivermectin, but you can treat this in the dam to 40 before she whelps. So again at the ultrasound you can know she’s pregnant and then start the protocol on day 40 of the pregnancy and then ten days before she whelps, and then again when the puppies are ten days old and 40 days old and this commercially available product.
How Serious is Hookworms in Dogs
I have personally never seen a hookworm come in in a dog stool sample. They’re very small. You’re not typically going to see those. If you see something in the stool, it’s almost always going to be roundworms or tapeworms. It has a fecal-oral transmission as well, like the roundworm. But it can also drill through the skin of a person’s foot. So if you walk through areas that the hookworms have been deposited in your yard at the beach, whatever it can go through the skin and into your circulation and in the dog instead of it going through the placenta, it goes into the milk. So, just like the dog that had parasites when she was young, if she had them, they will reactivate during the stress of pregnancy lactation, circulate through and go through the milk and into the puppies so they may not be born with worms, but by the time they’re a couple of days old, they can already have parasites living in their gut.
Symptoms of Hookworms in Dogs
Symptoms of hookworms in dogs include diarrhea and weight loss. This is a little different than roundworms because these attach to the lining of the intestine and they will suck blood, so you can have anemic puppies and they can be so anemic that they can profoundly be anemic and die from their anemia. So don’t take hookworms as being something casual. Again, unthrifty coat, potbelly appearance who just look like sick puppies.
Diagnosis is under the microscope or the ELISA test. Hookworm treatment is the same as roundworm treatment. This prevents the transmammary transmission.
What Do Heartworms Do To a Dog
Heartworm is probably the third most common parasite that we see. They are truly worms that live in the heart and the lungs. So, when it was named heartworm, it was a great name. You can see this many worms. It can be astounding how many worms can live in the dog’s circulation and still have them walking around. The important thing about this life cycle is that it has to go through a mosquito so a pregnant dog cannot transmit heartworm to her puppies. She has to have a mosquito bite, bite her and then bite the puppies, and then they can get heartworm. But it is not directly transmitted from the female to the puppies.
Symptoms of heartworm are cough weight loss, exercise, intolerance, panting, fainting, edema in the legs. They can go into kidney failure, they can go into liver failure. So, it’s a very nasty disease. They can migrate into the eye. There’s a lot of really nasty symptoms.
The diagnosis is primarily done now on an ELISA test and frequently it’s done on the chest. It also checks for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and ehrlichia. So if you hear about the Snap 4Dx test, it will check for heartworm and those three tick borne diseases. Lyme, anaplasmosis and ehrlichia. You can see on X-ray that there are some changes on the X-ray that can be characteristic of heartworm disease. There is a filter test that we used to use in the old days where you actually look for the baby heartworms. Most veterinary clinics don’t do that anymore and you can see them showing up on ultrasound. I actually had one diagnosis at our practice a number of years ago. The dog came in with heart disease, coughing. I listened to the heart. The dog had a murmur. We scheduled the dog for an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, and then the ultra-sonographer, the cardiologist said, “Oh, this dog has heartworm.” She could see the worms in the ultrasound.
Treatment for heartworm consists of using doxycycline and prednisone prior to the arsenic injections. Absolutely. 100% STRICT rest for months, and then a series of arsenic injections. Typically one is given on one day and then you come back four weeks later and get two, 24 hours apart. It’s expensive. It’s a big deal. You need chest X-rays, you need bloodwork, you need all kinds of things before you do this.
Heartworm Prevention for Dogs
Don’t let your dog get heartworm. It’s super easy to prevent. So please, please, please prevent it. Prevention includes ivermectin. It can be as ivermectin itself. It can be ivermectin in a heartworm product. Moxidectin is the injectable product that’s given as Pro Heart 12 every 12 months. You can get an injection for this for your dog, and it will prevent heartworm. You don’t have to worry about a pill. You don’t have to think about whether the dog will take it or not. And Moxidectin and Pro Heart 12 is safe for pregnant dogs and nursing dogs.
The other frequently used products are Milbemycin, which is going to be an Interceptor and Sentinel, and selamectin, which is Revolution. All of these drugs are very common, very safe. Absolutely. You should be using these on your dogs. There is no excuse for a dog to get heartworm disease at this time with the kind of effective preventatives that we have.
Heartworm Prevention for Pregnant Dogs
I usually try to avoid giving any of the preventive in the first three weeks of the pregnancy just because I prefer not to give drugs during that first trimester when all the tissues are forming. And read the label on your heartworm products, make sure it says it’s labeled for use in breeding dogs.
Now a breeding dog does not say pregnant dog. A breeding dog is a breeding dog. So if you have an eight week old male puppy at your kennel, that’s going to turn into your next favorite stud dog, he is a breeding dog, folks. He is not a pregnant dog. He’s a breeding dog. So please, please, please read the label on your medications. Trifexis and Simparica are not labeled for use in breeding dogs. So do not let your vet send them home with you because they are not tested in those breeding dogs.
Heartworm incidence is somewhat regional in the country. It has been found even in Alaska, despite the fact that mosquitoes have to transmit it. But the most prevalent areas are going to be in the southeast part of the country where it’s wet, humid and warm. Most of the year we have some in Wisconsin. I’ve seen one case in Wisconsin that was a native dog that had not traveled outside of Wisconsin. She was eight months old.
How Does a Dog Get Whipworms
Whipworms, my next favorite parasite, are kind of fun. They’re tiny. I have yet to see one of these brought in in a stool sample from a client. They primarily live in the large intestine of the dog. It does not spread through the placenta or through the milk like the roundworms and the hookworms. They will hang up in the large intestine and they will only shed intermittently. You can bring in ten stool samples and maybe only find them in one stool because they’re not uniformly distributed through the feces.
Symptoms of whipworms include irritation of the gut, diarrhea, weight loss, bloody stools, anemia, all the same stuff we see with all the other intestinal worms. In a fecal sample they look like this. There is not an ELISA test at this point, but there are very cool-looking little eggs on a fecal. Treatment consists of Sentinel, which is milbemycin, Drontal Plus, which is praziquantel, Panacur C, which is fenbendazole, Interceptor again, milbemycin. Picking up the stool, so please remember to keep the stools picked up.
How to Get Rid of Intestinal Parasites in the Yard
If you have any of these intestinal parasites, not just whipworms in your yard, there is nothing you can spray on the yard that will kill those eggs. There used to be organophosphates many years ago. They’ve been off the market for 35 years. They were toxic, so we don’t use those anymore. FDA and EPA don’t let us have those anymore. But if you do have this in your yard, you have to remove the top six inches of soil, cover it with clean topsoil and grow new grass, or use a flamethrower and not burn down your kennel in the process of doing that. So be aware that they are very hard to get rid of in the soil. Even in Wisconsin in the winter where it’s, you know, ten degrees below zero, these parasites will still survive.
The easiest way to prevent parasites and protect your dog is going to be your monthly heartworm preventive set includes things like an Interceptor and Sentinel. Heartgard does not control whipworms but Interceptor, Sentinel, Iverhart Max, all of those will.
How Do You Know if Your Dog Has a Tapeworm
Tapeworms are another parasite. You will frequently find these only by looking at the stool sample. There’s a number of different kinds of tapeworms. Taenia is one of them. Dipylidium is another kind. Echinococcus is the scary one. Tapeworms attach to the intestinal lining. They really do burrow in and hang on, which is how they stay attached while the stools and the food is going through the gut they stay. They look like little grains of rice and the place you’re going to most commonly see it is going to be on the rectum or the feces of the dog and that’s typically how we’re going to diagnose it.
How Do Dogs Get Tapeworms
How are tapeworms passed or how do they transmit? What is their life cycle? If it’s Dipylidium, It involves a flea. So if you have Dipylidium, if you have tapeworms, you may have a break in your flea control. You may have fleas on your dogs. So be aware of that. It can also involve, for Taenia, ingesting the feces of small mammals like rabbits, sheep, rodents, deer and pigs.
A lot of us in our part of the country have deer in our backyards. You may as well, but rabbits are almost everywhere. Rodents are almost everywhere. So it’s easy for your dog to go out in the yard and nibble on something and pick this up.
Echinococcus is the really scary one because it can cause if it gets into a person, a cyst in the brain or a cyst in the liver and the cyst in the liver can look like a very aggressive form of cancer.
So it is a very, very, very bad parasite. It is rare in dogs, but if your dog has it, it’s incredibly scary. It typically involves a coyote, a dog, a fox, some kind of a canine and sheep or rabbits. So most of us don’t have sheep. But if you do, be really aware of echinococcus that you need to have good tapeworm parasite control because it can cause very serious disease in humans. Symptoms are the same as most other intestinal parasites, along with itchiness around the rectum, weight loss, potbellied appearance, all that stuff.
The diagnosis is rarely done on fecal sample because the eggs in this parasite sink to the bottom, the eggs and other parasites float to the top so you can take in a stool sample with tapeworms in it, and your vet may report back that there are no parasites and you’ll be like, “But I saw something.” And you can get really frustrated. I understand that. But if you see tapeworm segments, tell your vet, take a picture, grab your phone, take a picture, and then take that stool sample in with the picture and explain it to them so that they know they should be looking for tapeworms. There is also a PCR ELISA test, not commonly run at most of the diagnostic labs. So if you see tapeworms, tell your vet, tell your vet that.
Taenia Tapeworms in Dogs
So for Taenia in dogs, any of the parasite control products for tapeworms will get rid of it. That means Cestex, praziquantel, and fenbendazole. For Dipylidium, fenbendazole will not get rid of Dipylidium. So you have to use one of the other products if you have Dipylidium. And most of the time we don’t identify which tapeworm it is. Cestex cannot be used in pregnancy. Praziquantel and fenbendazole can be used in pregnancy. So just be aware that those are safe. Fenbendazole does require a three day course. The other drugs are one day, so just be aware of that. Also, remember your flea control is really important if you have tapeworms.
How Serious is Giardia in Dogs
Almost everybody with multiple dogs at some point will have giardia. They’re very hard to find on stool sample. They are much easier to find on the ELISA test. It is very rare for dog giardia to get into humans. We used to not be aware of this. So in the past we’ve talked about this being zoonotic, but it is pretty rare for a dog giardia to be in a human. It’s almost always human giardia is human and dog giardia is giardia in the dog. Symptoms again, are the same as all the other intestinal parasites. They don’t feel good. There may be weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea. It can be possible to see these under the microscope, but it’s very difficult to see them under microscopic exam. The ELISA test, however, is very accurate. It can be run in your veterinary clinic if they have the giardia test. If they don’t, they can send it to the diagnostic lab. But this test can stay positive long after the cysts are gone. Long after the dog is normal. So treatment success is not that the ELISA test turns negative.
Treatment success is when the diarrhea goes away. And I see a lot of dogs, especially adult dogs that come in, we see a positive giardia ELISA. But if they don’t see the cysts and the dog doesn’t have soft stools, I don’t even treat them. I just tell the client, be aware of it. If the dog develops diarrhea, let me know and we’ll get medication for you. But if we treated every single dog that had a giardia positive test, you would absolutely lose your mind. It is not necessary to treat them. We only treat if they’re symptomatic. Treatment consists of fenbendazole given daily for 5 to 7 days. Bathing the dog daily with Vet Basic Chlorconazole Shampoo to keep the cysts from reinfecting the dog. So you have to put the dog in the tub and bathe it every day because the fecal material can retransmit it to the dog.
Metronidazole can also be used. Sometimes we use metronidazole and fenbendazole at the same time. If we can’t get rid of the giardia and the dog is still symptomatic with one of those two drugs, but we do not like the combination compounded together because it’s not going to have the right ratio of fenbendazole to metronidazole and metronidazole can cause a toxicity, especially in young puppies or the MDR1 dogs. I’ve seen multiple dogs with metronidazole toxicity. I’ve seen Samoyed, collies, poodles. A lot of different breeds can have this toxicity. So be very careful with metronidazole. I tend to rely on fenbendazole pretty heavily, but don’t use a combination product and the only time I will use sednidazole is if you’ve used fenbendazole and metronidazole and done your daily bathing and weighed the dogs and dosed it correctly and all the other requirements and you’re still having problems with giardia. Sednidazole is not labeled for use in dogs. The only study we have on sednidazole is in the cat. Cats are not dogs, dogs are not cats. I know you all know that. But we can’t just extrapolate what we know about cats to dogs. So I do not use sednidazole unless absolutely backed into the corner. And in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used it. I just know what’s in the literature. on prevention. So if you’re trying to keep your puppies from getting giardia, bathe the female about three days before she whelps, use the Vet Basics ChlorConazole. Get her good and clean. Get it off her rectum, get it off her mammary glands and keep her really clean because if she goes out, has some diarrhea, walks back in lays in the whelping box and the puppies crawl through that diarrhea, they can get giardia when they’re very young.
Keep the feces picked up, using your disinfectants, and then fenbendazole during that last three weeks of pregnancy, through the first two weeks of lactation will reduce the risk of the puppies getting it because she’s not shedding cysts. It doesn’t come from the mammary glands, it doesn’t come from the milk. But if we have a female that’s not passing giardia in her feces, she’s not going to be able to infect her puppies.
There used to be a vaccine on the market. That vaccine’s been gone for years, so we don’t have that and do not use metronidazole during pregnancy and do not use metronidazole when the puppies are less than six weeks old.
What Causes Dog Coccidia
Next is coccidia and it’s almost inevitable. If you have giardia, you probably have coccidia, too. You may have one, you may have both. It’s very common to have coccidia in large groups of dogs as well, whether it’s a shelter, a breeder, just somebody’s home that has a number of dogs, very, very common. The challenge to coccidia diagnosis is they can look very much alike under the microscope. Now, when we send our fecals out for testing, they all go to a diagnostic lab and I will often get a report back, probably a week that says this dog has coccidia, but it’s not a parasite of the dog. So the dog was out eating rabbit droppings, deer poop, something and picked up coccidia. But it was just traveling through the GI tract, and it didn’t take up residence there. So I don’t treat those dogs. I do tell the people your dog is eating rabbit poop or deer poop because I think they should know, but they do not need to be treated. Again, this is fecal-oral. So like a lot of the other parasites, the dog eats a species of animal that had it or eats their droppings.
How Do You Get Rid of Coccidia in Dogs
Coccidia symptoms are all pretty much the same. Diarrhea doesn’t feel good, maybe vomiting, dehydration, yada, yada. And like I said, you can see a difference between rabbit, bird and dog coccidia. But I’m not good enough to tell that, that’s what the diagnostic lab is trying to do. Treatment consists of Albon in my hands. Albon and only Albon. Toltrazuril is not labeled for any species in the United States. If you’re buying Toltrazuril, you’re buying it from a country that is not the US. There is no Toltrazuril labeled it for the U.S. Some of the people that are importing this aren’t even a real address in the United States. I looked up one of the importers and they don’t even exist in the United States. It’s an apartment building. And you know that they’re not actually the company that’s distributing it. They’re just a phantom address for this drug. So be very, very careful what you’re doing.
Ponazuril I will use, but I will not use the large animal product. I will only use it if it’s compounded by a compounding pharmacy and only if Albon has failed. So again, hygiene. Bathe her before she whelps, and keep the feces picked up. There is no transplacental or transmammary transmission, only through the stool. Again, I had puppies at my house that were three weeks old, and they had coccidia and I’m sure they got it because the female had some soft stool on her pads. They came in, they crawled through it, she picked it up the puppies picked it up from her, from the loose stool. Do not use Albon or any other sulfonamides during pregnancy or when the puppies are less than four weeks old. Albon during the pregnancy can cause midline defects even up to day 45 of the pregnancy. I had one client that lost her entire litter because she gave Albon for two days during the pregnancy and lost litter of frozen semen puppies. It was very sad, so please don’t do that.
Uncommon Dog Parasites
There are other some unusual parasites. Paragonimus. I’ve diagnosed one time in 40 years of practice. Lungworms we’ve diagnosed once. These are rare. Just be aware that they do exist. And if your clinic gets a report back that says they see these in the feces, you should address that.
Tips for Deworming Dogs
The basic principles for deworming dogs, weigh your puppies accurately, weigh your dog’s accurately, calculate the dose correctly, shake it well and distribute into smaller bottles, avoid the paste products, remove the feces and follow disinfectant instructions. So please do those things for best parasite control.
Puppy Parasite Prevention
Puppy medications. So these are going to be our model principles for treating patients with possible parasites or preventing them for puppies. I use Nemex if they’re under 10 lb. I use Strongid if they’re over 10 lb. So when they’re really small at two weeks of age, I’m going to use Nemex. But if I have a Labrador puppy in at six weeks of age, it’s 10 lb, then I’m going to switch to Strongid, too. I’ll start at one CC for 2 lb for Nemex 2, and one CC for 10 to 20 lb for Strongid.
If the female was on fenbendazole, then you don’t need to do the initial deworming at weeks 1 through 8. fenbendazole, this is off label like I talked about before, when we use it during the last five weeks or the last three weeks of pregnancy for the first two weeks of lactation, five weeks total, the label says three days. So this is off label use. But like I said, it’s been documented for 40 years. And my doses are one CC per 4 lb. of body weight, whether it’s the mother dog or the babies. As soon as the puppies are over six weeks old, you can use fenbendazole. under six weeks, that is not labeled as safe and you can do it during pregnancy and lactation if you’ve started deworming the puppies at week 1 to 2, you can use the pyrantel pamoate until they’re six weeks old. At six weeks you can give them fenbendazole for five days and then at eight weeks, hopefully by then you’re sending them out to the new homes. They can go on to the regular monthly heartworm preventatives, which most of them are going to include intestinal parasite control product, so Heartgard, Simparica, Interceptor, Iverhart, Sentinel, all of those are going to have a product in it that will give you not just heartworm prevention, but intestinal parasite control as well.
This is another little bit of tidbit information that’s not well known, is when you’re selling your puppies for the last three days that they’re at your kennel and the first three days in their new home. Send Albon with them. If they are on Albon, you will reduce the risk of them developing parvovirus. Yeah, it’s hard to understand because parvo is virus and this is a dewormer, and why does an antibiotic slash dewormer prevent parvo? And the answer is good gut health. So if we stabilize the gut bacteria, the puppies are less likely to get diarrhea and therefore less likely to get parvo and something else serious. So this is a great protocol.
If you’ve had difficulty with puppies leaving your facility and ending up with parvo, whether you’re a rescue, whether you’re a breeder, whether no matter what you do, this will reduce your parvo risk. I use a suspension. It tastes yummy. It’s a yellow, thick, viscous liquid, but it tastes delicious, and the puppies will take this really readily and it’s easy to dose.
Deworming Pregnant Dogs
Pregnant dams. You can either do the fenbendazole protocol that we’ve talked about twice. or from the time the puppies are a week old, Nemex or Strongid. and then at six weeks of age, Fenbendazole can be given to the female and to the puppies. And the day you deworm, the female is the same day you should deworm the puppies. So if you’re doing it weekly or every two weeks, that’s what you should be doing. CAPC, which is the Companion Animal Parasite Council is a great resource for all of this information. For the pregnant dam, once her puppies are eight weeks and weaned, you can put her on Revolution or selamectin and once a month plus Nemex or Strongid because remember Revolution and act and do not get intestinal parasite roundworm and hookworm in the dog. Or you can use the commercial heartworm products that contain the roundworm and hookworm prevention such as Heartgard, Interceptor, Sentinel for the adult dogs in the kennel that are not pregnant.
You want to do tapeworm control and flea control. So make sure that you’re using products that are appropriate for those that may be Revolution or selamectin. Those do a great job for your flea and tick control. It will control mites, lice some other creatures, but you’ll need to do something else for intestinal parasite control. And for giardia and coccidia, I don’t routinely put dogs on any of those preventatives if they have normal stools. So even if the ELISA test is positive and the stools are normal, I don’t treat them. If they become clinically normal, you can stop treatment. Just be aware that those tests, especially these giardia tests, can stay positive for a long time. Simparica Trio is not label for use in breeding dogs. A lot of dogs are coming to our practice that are putting being put on that. If they’re breeding dogs, they should not be on it. Trifexis, this is not labeled for use in breeding dogs and the Seresto collar is not. So be very careful what you’re putting on your dogs during the time that they’re in a breeding program.
Remember, breeding dogs are breeding dogs that may be a male dog that’s eight weeks old. I know he’s not pregnant but be careful. Some of the topical products are labeled safe for breeding dogs like Frontline. Some of them like Vectra 3D are not so be aware.
So flea and tick preventatives avoid during the first three weeks of pregnancy and read the label to make sure it says for breeding dogs or use Revival’s Flea and Tick Finder to find the best flea prevention for your dog.
Fleas and ticks will bite humans and dogs. They will spread diseases like tularemia, tapeworms. You want to make sure you’re using your control and treatment products year round. So even in the northern climates where it gets cold, you want to be doing these year round frontline Bravecto, Selamectin, and on a year-round basis.
How To Give a Dog a Dewormer
Some of these dewormers don’t taste the greatest. Fenbendazole honestly, it’s not a great tasting dewormer. It’s not fun to give. You can mix it with peanut butter you can mix it with canned dog food like starter mousse. You can mix it with Splenda, vanilla pudding, anything that’s going to flavor it, make it a little bit sweeter. My favorite for pills is miniature marshmallows. They’re slippery when wet, and that’s easy to slit and pop a pill into that. So there are definitely ways you can get medications into your dogs that are effective.
Need help with how to get rid of intestinal parasites in dogs or developing a parasite prevention plan for your dog or cat. Call a Revival Pet Care Pro at 800.786.4751
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.