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While parasites are a part of a puppy and a dog's life, there are lots of techniques and good management tools that owners, breeders and kennel managers can use to decrease the risk of infections. This makes good sense as parasitic infestations lead to death and serious health concerns in many dogs, even those that appear healthy and don't have any known health problems. In dogs or puppies with any type of chronic or infectious diseases, the presence of even mild cases of parasites can be the difference between a good prognosis and a bad one.
Unfortunately many dog owners don't understand the basics of hygiene around the yard and house and how the simple routine chore of keeping the dog's area clean can help to ensure your dog lives the longest and healthiest life possible. Since most of the parasites can be transmitted from infected dog to other dogs via contact with fecal material, keeping the yard and kennel areas picked up and disinfected is really critical. Even if you only have one dog, he or she can keep re-infecting his or herself just by playing, eating and sleeping in areas of contaminated soil.
Yard CleaningNo one likes the chore of "cleaning the yard", a nicer version of being the designated pooper scooper in the family. However, routine and frequent cleaning of the waste materials in the yard will help prevent the dog from being able to have contact with infected feces as well as prevent the eggs and cysts from settling into the soil as the waste material breaks down. The best possible routine is to clean the yard or kennel every day, but at least twice a week is essential to keep the chance of re-infecting as low as possible.
In addition to cleaning up the fecal material, be sure to clean up old bones, toys and other items that the dog chews on, especially if you suspect they have worms or parasites. Toys can be sterilized and disinfected and returned to the dog while other items need to be safely thrown out. Be careful to only discard the toys and chew items where other dogs cannot have access, if not you will only be spreading the parasite to another animal.
Keep your dog leashed when out walking if they have the annoying habit of eating other dog's waste. A retractable leash can give them room to roam but also allow you to prevent them from consuming any materials that may potentially be infected with parasites.
Kennel CleaningIf your dog sleeps or stays in a kennel or crate, cleaning these areas on a routine basis is critical for preventing reoccurring worm and parasite problems. This is true if you have one dog or a whole kennel. There are several different commercial disinfectants that your vet can recommend that will kill larvae, however eggs and cysts are almost indestructible. Powerwashing with a sprayer, strong garden hose or cleaning with a wet-dry vacuum are all good ways to rid the area of the hard to kill eggs and cysts.
Bedding needs to be routinely washed in hot water and put through a dryer. In cases where puppies are being kept in a whelping box and worms or parasites are a problem the lining should be destroyed either by burning or by carefully sacking in heavy plastic bags and removing to a waste facility. Don't simply dump the whelping box lining in a pile outside, this will only contaminate the soil and run the risk of re-infecting the litter.
Food and water dishes need to be positioned so fecal material cannot get into the dish and they need to be routinely washed, sterilized and disinfected. Avoid having dogs share food and water dishes, especially in kennels. Each dog should have their own individual clean water and food supply. Don't leave your dog in a kennel where food or water dishes are shared or dogs are kept in areas where they have access to each others bedding or waste.
Vermin ManagementMice, rats, squirrels and all other types of rodents are often intermediary hosts to various types of parasites. While dogs cannot directly become infected by just being around these vermin, they can become infected if they kill and/or eat one. Since most dogs will chase and kill mice and rats, it is important to keep food and other attractants in closed and sealed containers to avoid bringing rodents and vermin to the area.
Flea and Mosquito TreatmentFleas carry tapeworms as well being of the most problematic allergens to dogs, so keeping your dog flea free will aid in prevention of worms. In addition heartworms are carried by mosquitoes, as are other viruses and infectious diseases. Routinely providing topical flea treatments that also protect against ticks, repel mosquitoes and prevent heartworm is absolutely essential as part of an overall dog health care plan.
Routine WormingThe first thing to keep in mind with regards to routine worming is there are a lot of over the counter products that indicate they will worm your dog, however not many actually do what they say. Tapeworms and heartworms are not controlled or eliminated by over the counter wormers, and may actually do more harm to your dog as the situation goes untreated longer.
Your vet is the best source for worming medication. He or she will administer either a paste, liquid or tablet form of wormer to your dog, based on your dog's current weight, at their regular yearly visit. Often the vet will also provide a second dose to be given in six months that can be administered by the owner. Of course you can always bring your dog in as well for this. Dogs that are around strange dogs a lot such as those in shows, events and competitions may need to be wormed much more frequently. Discuss with your vet the best worming schedule for your pet and stick with it.
Puppies and pregnant mother dogs need to be wormed more frequently, with Moms-to-be typically wormed at least 2 weeks prior to whelping, then the Moms and puppies wormed at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks. After weaning the mothers are back on their routine worming schedule while puppies will be wormed every three to four months until they are one year old, then they switch to a mature dog worming schedule.
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