Managing gun dog parasites is an ongoing battle, and a critical one
Because of all the time they spend afield, our gun dogs are at a particularly high risk of contracting parasites. The added stress of travel, along with the hard work of hunting, calls for all the energy a dog can muster, so most of us understand the importance of having our dogs tested for parasites on a regular basis, as well as doing what we can to keep kennel areas clean, dry and free of parasites. With this in mind I hope you'll find the following information helpful.
PRIMARY EXTERNAL PARASITES: FLEAS AND TICKS
Fleas are our dog's number one concern. We know this critter all too well, a wingless insect, less than an 1„8-inch long, that travels from one host to another. Fleas are among the leading causes of skin problems in dogs and can carry diseases.
Can fleas cause worms? Yes, fleas act as intermediate hosts to some tapeworms. Fleas are infested after eating tapeworm eggs while on wild animals or other dogs. When, by some means, these fleas travel to our dogs and are ingested while the dog attempts to eliminate the annoyance--licking or biting at the flea that is biting him--the dog in turn becomes host to tapeworms.
Fleas move readily from one host to another, including man. Eggs are laid loose in the animal's hair and usually fall off and hatch in four to seven days. Any animal passing through the infested area may pick up this newly developing larva.
Under suitable conditions the larva then enters the pupa stage and spins a cocoon in which it changes to an adult flea within a week and starts gnawing on our dog.
Fleas may lie dormant inside the cocoon for several months when no host is present. It's easy to see why hunting dogs are continually re-infested and that effective control requires treatment of both the dog and his environment.
Use only products especially designed for dogs. They come in sprays, powders, shampoos and dips to help rid your dog and house of fleas. Sprays and dusts should be applied starting at the head and working back, being very careful to avoid the eyes. Cover the entire coat, even between the toes and around the pads. Check labels for specific directions and recommended frequency of treatment.
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Clean kennels religiously and discard old bedding from sleeping areas, then vacuum and spray or dust before replacing. Closed yard or run areas can be selectively sprayed with insecticide. Obviously, kennels in poor repair place your dog at greater risk simply because they're harder to keep clean.
Ticks are the other external parasite common to hunting dogs and probably the most difficult to control. Most common are the brown dog tick and the American dog tick, yet the tiny deer tick that causes Lyme disease is getting lots of press lately.
All ticks are blood-sucking parasites and have four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, nymph and adult. Adult females, engorged with blood, detach from the host and lay eggs in the environment. The eggs hatch into larval form in about two weeks; the larvae then attach to a host and feed until distended with blood and drop to the ground where they molt.
Nymphs are formed in about a week and once again attach to a host for some time, then the return to the environment where after several weeks they molt into adult ticks. Both adult male and female feed on a host. This complete life cycle is variable and may take more than a year.
Females of both brown and American dog ticks are approximately a half-inch long when engorged while the males are only around an 1„8-inch long. The deer tick is only the size of a pinhead and is easily overlooked.
The brown dog tick is known to sometimes carry a parasite of the red blood cells called Babesia canis, and the American dog tick can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. While the deer tick is known to carry Lyme disease, recent speculation leans toward the possibility that other ticks may also carry Lyme disease, but the jury still out on that.
Aside from the possibility of diseases, ticks suck many times their weight in blood, so a heavy infestation can cause anemia. Along with that, the bites can cause skin irritation and secondary infection so we should do our best to prevent infestation.
The most common means of protection against tick infestation on your dog involve the application of insecticides and repellents via collars, sprays, powders and liquids applied directly to the dog's skin. These methods vary in their effectiveness, duration of activity, and can have side effects so you should consult a veterinarian to help decide the safest and most effective means of control for your dog or kennel situation.
Some treatments effective in a kennel may not be appropriate for a single dog living in a household with small children. Also, some of the spot-on tick products may affect the way your dog handles anesthesia, should he require surgery.
Always notify your veterinarian of all medications your dog has been given when it goes in for a surgical procedure.
It's a bit ironic but thanks to Lyme disease, there are a number of new products on the market designed especially as tick and flea repellent for dogs. Through their use, ticks are less likely to remain on our dogs, but even so, we should look dogs over from head to toe when changing fields or quitting after a day's hunt.
As with fleas, proper treatment of the premises is essential for control of ticks. Use insecticide designed for ticks, and read and follow the instructions for safe use. Do not spray directly on dogs and be certain sprayed areas are completely dry before allowing dogs back
into their runs.
PRIMARY INTERNAL PARASITES: WORMS
Roundworms are probably the most common internal parasite of dogs and their life cycle demonstrates why they can be controlled but not eradicated. When roundworm eggs are shed in the feces of infected dogs they aren't infective, but require days to weeks in soil to mature to the infective stages. This is also true for other parasites and one reason frequent removal and disposal of waste is essential.
Roundworms can infect pups even before birth by way of the placenta, and after birth through larva in the dam's milk or from eggs passed in the feces of the mother. Lactating females can in turn be reinfected from the puppy's feces while cleaning up after them. So every effort must be made to keep everything as clean as possible. De-worming the bitch before breeding goes a long way toward cleaning up this environment.
In the small intestine, roundworms compete with the dog for nutrients, resulting in stunted growth in pups and general poor health in all dogs.
Through examination of fecal material your veterinarian can diagnose roundworms and prescribe a medication schedule for removal and prevention.
Heartworms also present a serious health hazard. They are usually found in the pulmonary arteries and in the right ventricle of the heart. The adult female can measure 10 inches and live up to seven years while producing millions of microfilariae. As the mosquito is an intermediate host, it is the primary means by which heartworms are transmitted.
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In the case of heartworms your veterinarian will perform blood tests for diagnosis and a preventative schedule. There are several products available, many which only need to be given once a month, and some which will also treat many of the other common intestinal parasites.
Always consult your veterinarian before starting any of these products as he or she will want to run some tests first to ensure the products are safe to use in your dog and that your dog has not already been infected with heartworms.
Hookworms can be very destructive. Puppies with heavy infections can die from acute blood loss before three weeks of age. Adult dogs with mild infections may show no symptoms, but those with severe infection exhibit anemia, dehydration, weakness and listlessness.
Adult hookworms measure less than an inch, have ridges and are slightly bent in a hook-like shape, hence their name. They attach themselves to the lining of the small intestine and suck blood from their host; as they shift feeding sites they leave bleeding ulcerations which may become infected.
As mentioned above, tapeworms require an intermediate host such as fleas or rodents to complete their life cycle. Symptoms are often minimal and infection is often detected by visually observing rice-like, egg-containing segments in feces or around the dog's anal area. Although a number of effective medications are available, prevention is your best bet. Control fleas, rodents, and consumption of uncooked meat.
Whipworms, like roundworms and hookworms, don't require an intermediate host to complete their lifecycle. They pass directly from one dog to another through egg-infected food, feces, or water.
Once ingested the larvae hatch in the small intestine and penetrate the lining to remain up to 10 days, they then migrate to the large intestine and complete development to the adult stage. Within 90 days the infected dog begins to pass eggs and the life cycle is complete.
It's believed that whipworms feed on blood and tissue fluid, resulting in anemia. Abdominal discomfort may be noted as a result of constipation and vomiting, or you may see diarrhea. With diarrhea the stool tends to be bloody with mucous. Weight loss and dehydration may also accompany severe infections, again diagnoses and treatment should be handled by your veterinarian.
Although we have only looked at the primary culprits, the message is loud and clear. Even though we depend on our veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment, the ball is really in our court when it comes to prevention. And it all starts with sound kennel sanitation practices. Clean, dry kennels with proper exposure to direct sunlight are a big step in that direction.