15 Feb 2018

Commonality of parasites in animals is not at all unusual. Fleas, ticks, worms, etc. can happen to any dog or beloved pet, but it is important to keep yourself educated and informed on the symptoms and causes for these parasites. Below we have listed some common misconceptions about these invasive critters that can affect your faithful service dog along with the facts and ways in order to prevent them and/or treat them. Is it important to keep a watchful eye on your service dog and if you notice any unusual behavior or symptoms, take them to the vet right away for a proper diagnosis. Read below to widen your knowledge about parasites and how they affect dogs:


flea parasites

Fleas can jump as high as 8” vertically, which is 150 times their own height.


TRUE: Fleas and ticks can cause your pet a lot of pain, discomfort, itching, and scratching. They can also transmit life-threatening diseases that are expensive or impossible to treat.

FALSE: If your dog doesn’t spend much time outdoors, they don’t need year round flea and tick protection.

TRUE: Fleas and ticks can show up anywhere, at any time of year. It is important to treat your pup with flea and tick protection such as a Serresto collar.



TRUE: Heartworms are contracted by being bitten by an infected mosquito.

FALSE: If your dog is mostly indoors, it’s ok to lapse on your monthly heartworm pills if you run out.

TRUE: It takes approximately 7 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms, so it is imperative to give your dog heartworm medication every month without lapsing.

FALSE: Heartworm can be treated at any time after it is contracted and does not get worse.

TRUE: Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs. Because of the longevity of these worms, as the infection in the pet persists more and more worms can develop making it even harder to treat.



TRUE: Your pup can get roundworms from the dog’s mother or if he eats roundworm eggs that come from another animal’s feces.

FALSE: If your dog has roundworms, your dog is not being well cared for.

TRUE: Roundworms can happen to any dog and are extremely common and easily treatable. If you see signs such as pot-belly, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, or visible roundworms in feces or vomit take your dog to the vet. Your vet will be able to test your dog’s stool for roundworms and be able to prescribe safe and effective deworming drugs.



TRUE: Coccidiosis is an intestinal parasite that can be found in both dogs and humans, however it is very uncommon that they can contract it from one another. A dog can catch coccidia from contact with feces, contaminated soil, or contaminated food.

FALSE: Only puppies can get Coccidiosis.

TRUE: Coccidiosis is most commonly found in puppies, but adult dogs are susceptible as well. More often than not they have contracted the parasite from an adult dogs’ feces.


tapeworm parasites

Once inside your dog, tapeworms can live out their entire lifecycle. It takes about 4 weeks for an adult worm to mature in the animal’s intestine and start laying eggs.


TRUE: Tapeworms are an intestinal parasite that is a flat worm that can be contracted by dogs, cats, humans, and many other species. Tapeworms are passed to dogs by accidentally eating fleas or consuming wild animals.

FALSE: Tapeworms can pass without any medical treatment.

TRUE: If your dogs fecal tests positive for tapeworms, your vet will prescribe a treatment regimen to rid them of its system.



TRUE: Hookworms are another type of intestinal parasite and can cause anemia in dogs.

FALSE: There is only one kind of hookworm that affects dogs and puppies.

TRUE: There are several different kinds of hookworms that can affect dogs, but they all are kinds that will feed on your dog’s blood. If your dog experiences symptoms such as anemia, pale gums, weight loss, and/or bloody diarrhea it is vital to take them to the vet so they can be properly diagnosed and put on deworming medication for treatment. If left untreated, not only will these symptoms continue to worsen, but it could lead to death.



TRUE: Whipworms can be found in the colon where they pass their eggs into the dog’s feces. They are found in a fecal sample from your vet in which your dog will be prescribed a proper treatment regimen.

FALSE: You don’t need to pick up after your dogs since whipworms eggs only survive for 30 days in feces before dying.

TRUE: Whipworm eggs can survive for up to 5 years in suitable, warm and moist environments, which is one of the many reasons why cleaning up after your dog immediately is so important.


parasites service dog


Between 7 and 8 weeks of age Service Dogs by SDWR puppies receive their first veterinary exam and first round of vaccinations. SDWR has its own veterinary protocol for treatment of intestinal parasites and does not recommend any course of action for symptoms of the aforementioned illnesses other than immediately seeing your vet. If you feel your dog is experiencing symptoms of any of the above see your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Have questions about common parasites in dogs or the health of your service dog? Contact us with any questions at info@sdwr.org or (540) 543-2307. If you currently have a Service Dog in Training through SDWR that is experiencing any of these symptoms, is sick or injured, please contact us immediately at info@sdwr.org or (540) 543-2307.