Dogs are not just pets. They are treated like members of the family. And like any member of your family, it’simportant to keep your companion animal healthy and free of parasites. Monitoring for any changes in behavior, appetite, or water consumption and regular visits to your veterinarian are important to the care and well-being of your dog. Your veterinarian can accurately diagnose and safely treat parasites and other health problems that not only affect your dog, but also the safety of you and your family. It is fairly common for a dog to become infected with an internal or external parasite at some point in its lifetime. Parasites can affect your dog in a variety of ways, ranging from simple irritation to causing life-threatening conditions if left untreated. Some parasites can infect and transmit diseases to people. By following our recommendations and having your pet tested for parasites annually, you can protect your dog and your family from potentially harmful parasites all year long. Click on the parasite below for information on the signs they cause in pets, where they are located, how they affect your dog, the health risks to people, and prevention tips.

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 Fleas on dogs

Parasites are “freeloaders” that live in or on another creature. Fleas are the most common external parasite found on dogs and cats. Although fleas are more likely to be a problem during warm-weather months, they can also cause problems during cooler seasons due to their ability to continue their life cycle indoors and in southern Oklahoma they are a year-round problem.

How will fleas affect my dog?

You will probably first notice the effects of fleas when your dog repeatedly scratches and chews. On occasion you may actually see tiny brown fleas moving quickly through your dog’s hair coat. Your dog’s constant scratching may lead to visible patches of hair loss and reddened, irritated skin. Fleas may also cause skin allergies and can transmit other parasites, such as tapeworms, to your dog.

How do I check my dog for fleas?

Although your dog may be infested with fleas, they are not always easy to find. One of the best methods for checking your dog for fleas is to look for flea dirt (actually flea feces) in your dog’s hair coat.

To check for flea dirt, briskly comb or rub a section of the hair on your dog’s back while your dog is sitting or lying on a white piece of paper. If your dog has fleas, black flecks that look like dirt (as a result, we use the term “flea dirt”) will fall onto the paper. If you transfer these black flecks to a damp piece of paper, in a short time they will appear red or rust-colored (see Figure 1). The red color results because blood sucked from your dog is passed in the flea’s waste matter. If the dirt specks do not turn red, then they are probably “regular” dirt.

How do I prevent my dog from getting fleas?


To control fleas, you must stop them from reproducing. We recommend using a monthly preventative such as Comfortis, Frontline Plus and Advantage products that are either taken orally (Comfortis of Capstar) or applied to the dogs skin (topical products like Frontline or Advantage). Carpets, pet bedding, furniture, and other indoor areas where your dog spends much time will contain the highest number of developing fleas. Frequent vacuuming of these areas and frequent washing of your dog’s bedding can greatly reduce the number of developing fleas inside your home.


Fleas also develop in shady, protected outdoor areas. These outdoor spots can easily be identified as the places where your dog likes to rest and relax. Remember, if your dog does not feel comfortable spending time in a particular area, then neither will fleas. Dogs and fleas typically like the same locations. Use a monthly preventative such as Comfortis, Frontline or Advantage that is applied to the dog’s skin.

Steps to Take:

Both indoor and outdoor areas can be sprayed with insecticides to eliminate fleas, if necessary. Treatment of your home or yard is best performed by a trained pest control expert.

Most flea problems can be managed by treating and preventing fleas on your dog. It is important to keep in mind that flea problems may be different from pet to pet or between households, and each problem may require a special method of control.

Contact us for advice on your specific situation. We can recommend safe and effective products for controlling fleas and can determine exactly what you need. We can also determine whether you should consult with a pest control specialist about treating your home and yard.

 Ticks on dogs

Ectoparasites are organisms that live on the outside of an animal. Ticks are fairly common ectoparasites of dogs and cats. How often you see ticks on your dog and how severe a tick assault will be depends on the region of the country in which you live, the time of year (tick activity varies in warm and cool weather), the habits of your dog, and how and when you use tick control products. Some ticks can infest dogs that spend most of their time indoors, and even dogs that only spend brief periods of time outside can have ticks.

How will ticks affect my dog?

Ticks attach to your dog by inserting their mouthparts into your dog’s skin. Many ticks also produce a sticky, glue-like substance that helps them to remain attached. After attaching to your dog, ticks begin feeding on your dog’s blood. The places where ticks attach can become red and irritated.

Although rare, ticks can consume enough of your dog’s blood to cause a deficiency called anemia. Certain female ticks can also cause a rare paralysis in dogs as a result of a toxin they produce while feeding. More important, ticks are capable of causing many diseases in your pet. The disease with which most people are familiar is called Lyme disease. Another is Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Lyme disease can cause arthritis and swelling of your dog’s joints, resulting in painful lameness. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can cause fever, lameness, and other signs. There are also other diseases that ticks can transmit to your dog. Your veterinarian can answer questions about the diseases that are important where you live.

How do I prevent my dog from getting ticks?

It is very difficult to prevent your dog’s exposure to ticks. Ticks can attach to your dog when he or she goes with you on walks, hikes, or during any outdoor activities. The best way to prevent ticks from attaching to your dog is by the regular use of monthly tick control products like Frontline Plus or Advantix or a 3 month Preventic collar. We can advise you about the best product for your dog and your situation. We are also aware of diseases that are common in your area and can pose a risk to your dog. In southern Oklahoma, tick are a year-round problem and prevention should be maintain 12 months of the year.

Can humans be harmed by ticks?

Ticks can attach to and feed on humans. The skin where ticks attach to humans can become red and irritated. Ticks that transmit diseases to your dog can also transmit many of the same diseases to people. It is important to realize that people do not get these diseases from their dogs. Both people and dogs get the diseases from ticks they come into contact with outdoors. Diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which have already been described in dogs, can also be very serious in humans.

If you have questions about human diseases that are transmitted by ticks and how you can protect yourself, you should consult a doctor.

 Heartworms in dogs

Total positive cases at CCAH in 2008 – 79 canines

Total positive cases at CCAH in 2009- 64 canines and 1 feline

Total positive case at CCAH to date on 1/2/09 – 2

Heartworms are common in dogs throughout the United States (cats can have them, too). They are among the most damaging parasites in dogs, though they have been 100 percent preventable for decades. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and, once mature, take residence in the heart and large vessels of the lungs. The adult female heartworm can measure from 9 to 16 inches in length. The males are a little more than half as long and are easily identified by your veterinarian because of their corkscrew-like appearance.

How will heartworms affect my dog?

Heartworm infection can affect many different organs of the dog-heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver, for example-so symptoms may be varied. A veterinarian may suspect that an animal has been infected if an active animal tires easily or shows shortness of breath or coughing; however, one or more tests conducted by your veterinarian may be necessary to determine whether or not your dog has heartworms.

The heartworm larvae deposited by the feeding mosquito eventually migrate to the chambers of the heart or into the vessels of the lungs. Once in the heart, the worms can affect blood flow throughout the body.

How do I prevent my dog from getting heartworms?

Heartworms have been found in dogs in all 50 states so all dogs are at risk, even those animals that primarily live indoors. However, heartworms are preventable. We recommend a monthly heartworm preventative such as Interceptor and Heartgard.

Ask us about heartworm prevention. Preventive treatment should begin at 4 to 8 weeks of age in puppies and after tests have been conducted in older dogs to determine if your dog has already been infected. If your dog does have heartworms, we can advise you about treatment options.

Can humans contract heartworm disease?

Isolated cases of human infection have been reported, however, the heartworm is generally not considered a risk to human health.

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Hookworms in dogs

Similar to tapeworms and roundworms, hookworms are intestinal parasites that live in the digestive system of your dog or cat. The hookworm attaches to the lining of the intestinal wall and feeds on your dog’s blood. Its eggs are ejected into the digestive tract and pass into the environment through your dog’s feces.

Larvae (young hookworms) that hatch from hookworm eggs live in the soil and can infect your dog simply through contact with and penetration of the skin and through eating the hookworm larvae. It is common for hookworms to infect the host through a dog’s belly or feet as well as to be ingested during routine licking (cleaning).

How will hookworms affect my dog?

Hookworms suck blood and therefore cause internal blood loss. They are a serious threat to dogs, especially young puppies that may not survive the blood loss without transfusions. In older animals the blood loss may be more chronic, and the pet may have diarrhea and show weight loss.

If you think your dog is infected with hookworms, call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment for evaluation, diagnosis, and safe, effective treatmentHookworms in the intestines.

How do I prevent my dog from getting hookworms?

Similar to steps for prevention of other intestinal parasites, it is essential to keep your dog’s surroundings clean and prevent the dog from being in contaminated areas.

Puppies should be treated for hookworms at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age, followed by administration of a monthly preventive treatment. Fecal examinations should be conducted 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 to 2 times per year in adults. Nursing mothers should be treated along with their puppies.

Several heartworm preventive medications also treat hookworms. Stategic deworming protocols are becoming more popular for our pets to not only protect them but to also protect our families from zoonotic infections. Gap deworming is one easy method where are dewormer is given 14 days after the monthly heartworm preventative for two straight months to break the life cycle of the parasite. Consult your veterinarian for safe and effective prevention and treatment options.

Can humans be harmed by hookworms?

Some hookworms of dogs can infect humans by penetrating the skin. This is most likely to occur when walking barefoot on the beach or other areas where pets deposit feces. Infection usually results in an itching sensation at the point where the larvae enter the skin and visible tracks on the skin. The condition is easily treated but can cause mild to extreme discomfort in the affected person. One species of hookworm that infects dogs is known to develop in the human intestine, too, where it may cause disease.

Foot affected with a cutaneous larval migran due to hookworms

 Tapeworms in dogs

Tapeworms are long, flat worms that attach themselves to your dog’s or cat’s intestines. A tapeworm body consists of multiple parts, or segments, each with its own reproductive organs. Tapeworm infections are usually diagnosed by finding segments-which appear as small white worms that may look like grains of rice or seeds-on the rear end of your dog, in your dog’s feces, or where your dog lives and sleeps.

There are several different kinds, or species, of tapeworms that can infect your dog, each with stage(s) in a different intermediate (in-between) host, which the dog eats to become infected. Dipylidium caninum is a tapeworm that uses fleas as its intermediate host, whereas Taenia and Echinococcus species use small rodents (mice, rats, squirrels), rabbits, or large animals (such as deer or sheep) as their intermediate hosts.

How will tapeworms affect my dog?

Dogs with tapeworm infections usually are not sick and do not lose weight from the worms. Contrary to popular belief, dogs that “scoot” on their rear ends are generally doing it for reasons other than having tapeworms, such as blocked or irritated anal sacs (pouches located in your dog’s rear end) or other skin inflammation of the rear.


Tapeworms look like grains of rice

How do I prevent my dog from getting tapeworms?

Try to keep your dog from coming in contact with intermediate hosts that contain tapeworm larvae. Because fleas are an intermediate host for the most common kind of tapeworm, consistent, safe, and effective flea control is an essential prevention measure.

If you think your dog is infected with tapeworms, call your veterinarian for an appointment to get an accurate diagnosis and safe, effective treatment options.

Can humans be harmed by tapeworms?

Certain tapeworms found in dogs or cats may cause serious disease in humans. Fortunately, these tapeworms (Echinococcus species) are uncommon in the United States and are readily treated by prescriptions available from your veterinarian. There are rare reports of Dipylidium (a common tapeworm in pets) infections in children, but these infections are not associated with significant disease.

 Roundworms in dogs

Roundworms are the most common of the parasitic worms found inside a dog. Almost all dogs become infected with them at some time in their lives, usually as puppies. Roundworms may be contracted in different ways, making them easy to spread and hard to control.

Your dog may be infected with roundworms from the time it is born because often the mother passes the worms to the puppy while it is still in her body. Roundworms can also develop in a puppy after it is born when the puppy eats larvated eggs from the environment or drinks worm larvae (young worms) in the mother’s milk. Another way roundworms are passed is when roundworm larvae are present in the tissues of a mouse or another small mammal and the puppy eats the animal.

How will roundworms affect my dog?

Adult roundworms live in the affected dog’s intestines. Many dogs do not have signs of infection; however, dogs with major roundworm infections, especially puppies, show weight loss, dull hair, and a potbellied appearance. The dog may cough if the roundworms move into the lungs.

You may notice the adult roundworms in your dog’s feces or vomit. They will appear white or light brown in color and may be several inches long.

Roundworms look like pasta

How do I prevent my dog from getting roundworms?

Because roundworms can enter your dog’s body in many different ways, it is essential to keep your dog’s living area clean, remove feces regularly, and, if possible, prevent your dog from eating wild animals that may carry roundworms.

To get rid of roundworms that are passed in the mother’s milk, puppies should be treated at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age and then receive a preventive treatment monthly. Fecal (stool) examinations should be conducted 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 or 2 times each year in adults. Nursing mothers should be kept on monthly preventive and treated along with their puppies.

Many heartworm medications also control roundworms. Stategic deworming protocols are becoming more popular for our pets to not only protect them but to also protect our families from zoonotic infections. Gap deworming is one easy method where are dewormer is given 14 days after the monthly heartworm preventative for two straight months to break the life cycle of the parasite. Ask your veterinarian about prevention and treatment choices

Can humans be harmed by roundworms?

Roundworms do pose a significant risk to humans. Contact with contaminated soil or feces can result in human ingestion and infection. Roundworm eggs may accumulate in significant numbers in the soil where pets deposit feces.

Children should not be allowed to play where animals have passed feces. Individuals who have direct contact with soil should wear gloves or wash their hands immediately when picking up animal feces in yards.

Child with a ocular larval migran due to round worm infection

 Whipworms in dogs

The whipworm is one of the four most common intestinal parasites of dogs. Whipworms reside in the cecum, which is inside your dog’s body where the small intestine and large intestine meet.

Dogs become infected with whipworms by swallowing infective whipworm eggs in soil or other substances that may contain dog feces.

How will whipworms affect my dog?

Dogs that are infected with a few whipworms may not have any signs of infection. More severe infections can cause bloody diarrhea. If an infected dog is not treated, then severe whipworm infection can cause serious disease and even death.

How do I prevent my dog from getting whipworms?

Whipworm infections can be prevented by removing your dog’s feces regularly from your yard. Because whipworms are sometimes more difficult to diagnose than other intestinal parasites, it is important that you take your dog to see a veterinarian at least annually for a properly conducted fecal examination (test of your dog’s feces).

Your veterinarian can prescribe safe and effective products that treat and control whipworm infections.

 Ear Mites in dogs

Ear mites are tiny mites, barely visible to the human eye, that live on the surface of ear canal skin in dogs and cats. An infestation produces tiny black specks, similar to coffee grounds.

How will ear mites affect my dog?

Ear mite infestation is usually detected by the dog scratching at an irritation in the ear. The ear may become red and inflamed, and skin diseases may result from the ear mite infestation.

How do I prevent my dog from getting ear mites?

Ear mites can multiply quickly prior to detection, so it’s important to check your dog’s ears if it is scratching them often or if the ears seem red and inflamed. Ear mites are transmitted though social interaction with other infested dogs, so all your pets should be checked regularly at home and by your veterinarian for possible ear mite infestation.

Ear mites are treatable with a number of products currently on the market. Because the infestation is easily transmitted between animals, all animals in the household (both dogs and cats) should be treated for ear mites. Consult your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and treatment options.

Can humans be harmed by ear mites?

Ear mites are not generally considered a risk to humans.

 Coccidia in dogs

Coccidia are tiny single-celled parasites that live in the wall of your dog’s intestine. They are found more often in puppies, but they can also infect older dogs and cats.

Dogs become infected by swallowing soil that contains coccidia or other substances in the environment that may contain dog feces.

How will coccidia affect my dog?

Coccidiosis, the disease caused by coccidia, may not cause any signs in dogs but is usually more serious in puppies. The most common sign of coccidiosis is diarrhea. More severe infections can cause bloody diarrhea. Severe infections, especially in puppies, can kill them.

How do I prevent my dog from getting coccidia?

Coccidial infections can be prevented by removing your dog’s feces regularly from your yard or other areas where the dog goes to the bathroom. Because coccidia are found most often in puppies, it is important to have puppies examined for the parasite as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can perform a fecal test to diagnose coccidiosis. If your dog is infected with coccidia, your veterinarian is able to give it effective medications.

Can my cat get coccidia from my dog?

A dog infected with coccidia cannot pass the infection to cats and vice versa. Coccidial infections occur only by swallowing the coccidia in soil or dog feces.

 Giardia in dogs

Giardia is a single-celled parasite that lives in your dog’s intestine. It infects older dogs but more frequently infects puppies. Dogs become infected when they swallow Giardia that may be present in water or other substances that have been soiled with feces.

How will Giardia affect my dog?

Many dogs infected with Giardia do not get any disease. Giardiasis, the disease caused by Giardia infection, usually results in diarrhea. Some animals with giardiasis may also throw up. Having giardiasis a long time can cause weight loss; generally poor condition; and even death, when the disease is serious.

How do I prevent my dog from getting Giardia?

The best way to prevent Giardia infection is to make sure that your dog has safe, clean drinking water. It is important not to allow dogs to drink water from areas where other animals have left their feces. Your veterinarian can perform a test on your dog’s feces to see if it has giardiasis. If your dog is infected with Giardia, your veterinarian can prescribe safe, effective treatment. To prevent spreading Giardia (and other parasites), pick up the feces left by your dog immediately and place it in the trash. Be sure to avoid contact with the feces by using gloves, a bag over your hand, or a scooping device.

Can humans be harmed by Giardia?

Giardia is a common cause of diarrhea in people, and there is a chance that Giardia from dogs could infect people and cause disease. For this reason, if you think your dog may be infected, it is important to see your veterinarian for appropriate tests and safe, effective treatment. Infection of people with Giardia from dogs is rare. It is likely that most people become infected with Giardia passed by other people rather than Giardia from pets.

 Demodectic Mange in dogs

Demodex is a parasitic mite that causes a skin disease often referred to as mange or canine demodicosis. The microscopic Demodex mites live in the hair follicles and oil glands of your dog’s or cat’s skin or at the skin surface.

Many animals have natural mite populations; however, most healthy animals are able to suppress the populations from becoming problematic. Usually, animals that are going to be affected by Demodex show signs of mange early in life. Occasionally, an animal will develop demodectic mange as an adult; however, this usually means that the animal has another medical condition that is compromising the immune system.

How will demodectic mange affect my dog?

Demodex mites create patches of hair loss as a result of mild irritation and itching, usually starting on the muzzle and head and progressing toward the rear. The disease can be limited to a small area of infestation (localized), which most often occurs in young dogs, or more widespread (generalized) infestations.

Diagnosis of Demodex mites is made through skin scrapings of the affected areas. Localized infestations can easily be treated, and most are resolved with no treatment. Generalized infestations of Demodex can be more challenging to treat.

How do I prevent my dog from getting mange?

First and foremost, maintaining your dog’s overall health is critical to creating immunity to mite infestations. A good diet and clean environment can greatly reduce the opportunity for your dog to contract a mite infestation.

Consult your veterinarian for additional prevention strategies and treatment options.

Can humans be harmed by Demodex?

Demodex from dogs poses no risk to humans.

Some 30 years ago, dipping dogs with demodectic mange in motor oil was a popular home remedy. Skin exposure to motor oil can cause rashes and skin destruction in severe cases. The hydrocarbons can be absorbed through the skin and cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. If motor oil is licked off the coat, resultant vomiting can lead to aspiration of motor oil into the lungs and pneumonia. Kidney and liver damage can result from motor oil dipping.

Please: Do not dip your dog in motor oil!

Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange, also called scabies, in dogs is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, a highly contagious skin parasite. The mites burrow into the skin and cause severe itching, which can result in the formation of scabs and hair loss. It is a nonseasonal parasite that can be found in dogs of all ages and breeds.

How will sarcoptic mange/scabies affect my dog?

Scabies causes severe itching, so dogs that experience prolonged scratching and hair loss are suspect. Symptoms are most often seen on the elbows, hocks, abdomen, and chest of infested dogs. Scabies is difficult to diagnose so clinical signs and elimination of other risk factors is important as skin scrapings are often unreliable. It is important to consult with your veterinarian if you suspect an infestation. Your veterinarian can recommend effective therapies for this disease.

How do I prevent my dog from getting scabies?

Maintaining the good health of your dog is important to preventing scabies. Dogs that roam with other dogs, reside at a shelter or boarding facility, or have frequent contact with other dogs are susceptible as scabies is easily transferred between dogs.

Can humans be harmed by scabies?

Scabies is zoonotic (can be passed from animals to humans), so pet owners that have close contact with their dogs may develop an itchy rash. After the dog has been treated, however, symptoms usually disappear.

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