back to Mountain Summit Whoodles main page

Fleas, Worms
and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night

1) Parasites
2) House Breaking

Some facts of life with dogs arouse the 'yuck' response in many people. Dogs do things that seem stupid to us; often these are repulsive and many are certainly unsanitary from a human point of view. Our four footed pals eat stuff off the sidewalk; they lick their own private parts; they stick their noses in other dogs' business in more ways than one. And some dogs, females as well as males, 'hump' inappropriate things, usually at inappropriate times. Dogs see things differently than we do and they act more from instinct than we do. Much of this behavior is out of our control but there are some other aspects of our shared existence that we have a lot of say in.

External parasites... fleas, ticks, mange mites, etc... are easily prevented and almost as easily dealt with if they get passed our precautions. There are several once-a-month topicals that keep fleas off dogs. (In my opinion) ADVANTAGE is the best for controlling fleas but does little to stop ticks. FRONTLINE is more effective against ticks but not nearly as good for fleas. Both can be applied to pregnant and nursing animals and to very young pups. I've never used BIO-SPOT because it has a caution against use on breeding animals. When it comes to things like scarcoptic mange (scabies) and rabbit mites (also called walking dandruff, technically Cheyletiella,) IVOMECTIN is both a preventative and a cure. IVOMEC is the main ingredient in Heartguard, the heartworm medicine, and is safe for most (but definitely not ALL) types and ages of dogs. (I think it is the Collie and collie derivative breeds that cannot be given ivomectin or anything with ivomec in it.) With the exception of heartworm, none of these things are a big deal, especially to a healthy dog, and are a part of a dog's life in most parts of the country. This doesn't mean that you should just ignore them, but with so many options for prevention available, they don't have to be a problem.

Internal parasites... worms... are also easy to prevent and to get rid of if your dog picks them up. There are many over the counter treatments containing PYRANTEL PAMOATE, probably the most popular being NEMEX. Or you can ask your vet for something. Pyantel pamoate is good for controlling round worms (the ones that look like spaghetti.) Hooks and whips are better dealt with with something like PANACUR or SAFEGUARD which you have to get from the vet. (It also gets round worms.) The worms that look like rice are actually segments of a larger worm called a tape worm. Tapes are USUALLY caused by the dog swallowing a flea... even though your dog may be flea-free, it will come in contact with the pests in the grass, etc. Again, the treatment for them must come from the vet. Unlike rounds, hooks and whips, tapeworms don't actually harm the dog.

There are two theories about coccidia... 1) it is caused by a bacteria found in stagnant water, dirty living quarters, etc. and 2) it is part of the natural digestive system. My vet thinks both theories are correct. Coccidia is "shed" during periods of stress such as when a pup goes to its new home, after surgery or when the dog is boarded. It causes very loose stools to diarrhea, often with some blood and/or mucous mixed in. Usually (USUALLY) the pup/dog does not act sick... tails and ears are carried normally, eyes are bright, activity level is the same as always... and it is just the lousy stool that indicates there is a problem. Again this is an easy fix. Some vets will put the puppy on a 10-14 day once daily dose of Albon, a thick yellow suspension that has a taste dogs love. Metronidazole is another medication used to treat coccidia. It is the same drug as Flagyl which is used to treat the same symptoms in humans. Both albon and metronidazole are CHEAP and treating coccidia is no big deal. By the way, one way to cut down on the amount of loose stool after surgery or an illness requiring antibiotics is to give the dog (or yourself) daily doses of acidolphyllus (natural "good" bacteria found in the digestive tract.)

Giardia is similar to coccidia in that there are the same thoughts about its cause. AND treatment is usually metronidazole. (As far as I know, albon is not used to treat it.)

Heartworm is another matter indeed. It is serious and can be fatal. It is easy to prevent and difficult... and expensive... to treat. A once a month dose of preventative, available from you vet, given year round will insure your dog against this problem. By the way, I NEVER test my dogs for it as my vet and I agree that keeping them on prevention 12 months of the year is enough of a guarantee. A word of caution if you are adopting an older pup or young adult: I have lost ONE dog to heartworm, a guy I adopted when he was a year old with the assurance that he'd always been on prevention. He died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 9 and his necropsy showed heartworm... my vet showed it to me and it is unbelievable. When I asked him how it was possible for him to have it while being on prevention, he told me the dog probably had it when I got him and his monthly dosage kept him from getting additional worms but would not kill the one he already had. A blood test when I first got him (or any time during his life) would have shown the infection.


When working with animals, the trick is to be smarter than they are. For some folks, this is not easy.

Probably the biggest issue for most people with new puppies... and often older adoptees... is house breaking or teaching the dog to "do its business" outside and outside only. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime to the just plain cruel and stupid. For instance, rubbing a puppy's nose in its misplaced feces or urine is just dumb and if you do it more than once, the pup will realize it is smarter than its human. Smacking the pup with a newspaper teaches it that newspapers are dangerous especially in the hands of humans (which it already knows it is smarter than.) Both of these are old methods which don't work now... they didn't work then either.

Dogs are den animals and keep their own areas clean. It takes a little persuading to convince them that the whole house is the den and I am of the opinion they never quite agree with that theory but just go along with it to keep the humans calm. As every dog knows, a calm human is easier to deal with and more likely to remember the dog's rules about opening doors like those that go outside and the one to the refrigerator. All the articles tell you to put the puppy in a small crate when you can't supervise it closely because... the articles say... dogs won't "mess" in their sleeping quarters. And most won't. BUT the operative word here is "dogs" as in pups that have grown up to physical and mental maturity. A young puppy, 8-12 weeks, is an infant and just learning how to handle people. It doesn't have the physical maturity to "hold it" and it does not have the mental maturity to understand you WANT it to hold it. Time will cure both those problems and while you wait, patience and consistency (on your part) will make everything easier for you and the puppy. You MUST understand that puppies, just like human infants and toddlers, gotta go when they gotta go and it really doesn't matter where they happen to be at the time. Most experts suggest a pup be taken outside (or placed on newspaper or wee-wee pads) as soon as it wakes up or is removed from its crate, shortly after it has eaten and every hour or so while it is awake. Positive reinforcement... yeah! what a good puppy!... every time it relieves itself when/where you want it to works better than getting upset with the "dumb" dog.