Puppies may love to run, play and explore, but they aren’t invincible -- in fact, a parasitic infection in your puppymcan have lifelong consequences. Pups are susceptible to both internal and external parasites, and while prevention is ideal, seeking quick treatment for your pet can prevent an infestation from having a serious long-term impact.
Though puppies usually like to explore with their mouths, licking or eating the wrong thing -- like another animal’s feces -- can lead to an infestation of internal parasites. Some internal parasites have longer-lasting consequences than others. Hookworms, for example, are parasites that feast on your puppy’s blood after nestling in his small intestine or muscles. This makes your puppy susceptible to life-threatening protein deficiencies, as well as stunted muscle growth -- even if you treat the infection, it may have permanently affected his physical development.
Trouble on the Surface
External parasites may not live inside your puppy’s body, but that doesn’t mean they can’t affect his health just as significantly as internal parasites. Ticks, for example, may carry serious diseases like Lyme disease, which has no cure. External parasites can even affect your puppy’s health indirectly. Fleas, for example, may seem like a temporary problem, but the severe itching they cause may drive your puppy to overzealous scratching. That scratching can lead to rashes and skin infections that grow worse over time -- even after the fleas themselves are long gone.
Watching for Symptoms
Prevention is the best method for protecting your puppy from the lifelong consequences of a parasitic infestation -- your vet can recommend preventative oral and topical medications. Whether or not you administer preventative medicine, though, you should monitor your puppy for the signs and symptoms of parasites. In some cases, like roundworms, the actual parasites may be visible in your pet’s feces. External parasites like ticks are visible on your puppy’s skin or in his fur. In other cases, identifying a parasitic infestation may not include seeing the parasites themselves, but rather the symptoms they case -- hookworms, for example, cause extreme lethargy, weakness and upset stomach.
Getting Professional Help
If you suspect that your puppy has a parasitic infestation, don’t wait for his symptoms to grow more severe -- take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. The key to preventing lifelong health problems is quick treatment, because the longer the parasite is feeding off of your puppy, the likelier it is that it can cause long-term damage. Ticks, for example, are likelier to transmit Lyme disease the longer they are attached to your puppy’s skin. If you hesitate to seek help for a suspected infestation, that infestation is more likely to affect your puppy’s health in the future than if you get medical attention right away.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.