Dog Longevity Survey: How Important Is Parasite Prevention and Screening for Longevity?

Which of these two sayings do you live by? "An ounce of prevention is worth of a pound of cure?" Or "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?"

Here is what you guys thought:

Extremely important51.16%
Somewhat important  9.30%
Not important  0.00%
I don't know  2.33%
Other  4.65%

Answers under "other" included a note about exposure, and one suggested a holistic approach. That's interesting because the person made the assumption that by prevention it is meant conventionally only. Which it really isn't. Prevention can include conventional or holistic measures.

Nobody thought it wasn't important, but 2.33% checked they didn't know.

Preventing disease is, of course, the best thing without a doubt. 

It becomes murky when the things you might need to do to prevent something might be unhealthy after their own fashion.

Why care about parasites?

Parasites can, actually, cause quite a lot of damage and under some circumstances even kill a dog. Parasites can be internal or external, some more dangerous than others but a large enough infestation can be fatal in itself. Further, some of the external parasites come with the added bonus of being vectors for infectious diseases.

External parasites include guests such as fleas, mites, and ticks. Internal parasites include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, giardia, coccidia, flukes, and the scariest of them all - heartworm.

Parasites can rob your dog of blood or nutrients and cause damage to the infested organ.

Unfortunately, the typical prevention or treatment comes in the form of chemicals and toxins.

There are natural alternatives to prevent unwanted guests. I am always open to consider or even try such things with the goal being to avoid exchanging one evil with another. Presently, we are testing a tick tag for tick prevention. So far so good, meaning we haven't found any ticks on Cookie so far. Which can mean the tag is working or there weren't any ticks ready to hitch a ride when she's gone by. Either way, works for me.

The only preventive medication we are using is a heartworm preventive.

These usually also provide protection against at least some of the intestinal parasites, though that is not my focus.

There are people who "worm" regularly but to me, that is one of the things I don't want to fix if it isn't broken. I elect to test a fecal semi-annually, and I would test it if my dog started having signs of a potential problem. But unless I had a clear evidence of infestation, I would not treat.

The level of diligence depends on your location and your dog's lifestyle.

If you live in an area where fleas or ticks are endemic, preventive measures make sense. If you live in a desert, it makes more sense to worry about scorpions than fleas or ticks.

Screening is non-invasive and safe and always a good idea.

Whether you're using any preventives or not, screening is essential. For example, even though we use heartworm preventive year-round, we do test every year. There is always the possibility something makes it through the defenses; resistance is on the rise when it comes to parasites too.

Parasites can rob your dog of blood, nutrients, and health.

Regardless of the methods and approaches you choose, staying on top of it does increase your dog's longevity.

Related articles:
Dog Longevity Survey Part I
Dog Longevity Survey Part II
Dog Longevity Survey Part I Results
How Important Is Weight Management for Longevity?


  1. Checking for parasites is important for both dogs and cats. It's good to do a visual check as well as have your vet check blood work and stool samples for parasites too. All a part of helping ensure your pet is healthy and safe.

  2. It is amazing how destructive parasites can be. We have to take our tortoise in to have him checked for parasites too. (He enjoys grazing outside in the summer.)

    1. You'd think they [the parasites] would be smarter about it - killing a host doesn't make much sense.

  3. We definitely practice preventative care. Truffle and Brulee do get vaccinations and are treated monthly for parasites because we live in the South where we tend to have warmer weather year round and those pesky critters can get inside. Now that the girls are 6 years old, the vet does blood work once a year to monitor everything.

    1. Consistent care and regular testing is the best thing to do. Even when using prevention, things can still slip under the radar.

  4. I definitely think it's important to keep on top of anything you can by screening. I always bring along a fecal for testing when I bring the dogs to the Vet. It's so inexpensive and worth every penny to see if anything is going on. I am interested in non-chemical preventatives for external parasites IF they are really effective. My fear is that many are not effective enough. I use a heartworm medication diligently all year round and get the antigen test every year, which my Veterinarian requires. Most Vets I've used won't give renew the prescription without doing an annual antigen test.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. Yes, we test regularly. I like using natural preventives where I can; heartworm is the only one I don't dare to try and stick with meds that are known to be effective.

  5. I only give my dog heartworm prevention as well. I don't know why I would give her flea and tick prevention if we don't have fleas or ticks unless we go hiking then we use a tick tag or some other form of repellent but I am not the biggest fan of putting unnecessary chemicals on or in her body. I am just scared to death of having to deal with worms so that's why I give her that one. I'm glad that you mentioned it differs from dog to dog and place to place, some people are so head strong about vaccines and medicines that they might not see where other people are coming from!

    1. Yes, no sense preventing something that is not a problem in the first place. This year, we're experimenting with a tick tag too. So far so good, though that either means the tag is working or we didn't run into any ticks. I'm happy either way.

  6. Checking for ticks is extremely important since they carry so many diseases. I'm using a topical applicator on Buffy, since I have found several ticks on her this summer. This is surprising since I no longer take her to the woods but only around the residential streets. Ticks seem to be spreading. Until last year, I never found one in my yard, only in the forest preserves.

    1. Yes, those damned things are spreading for sure. I wish somebody came up with a way to get rid of them, rather than coming up with new chemicals to lace ourselves and our dogs with.

  7. Interesting results in your survey. I always am on the preventative side for heartworm and other infectious diseases. The movement to not vaccinate dogs is very disturbing to me. Sandra and Dolly

    1. Well, there is a reason behind the movement ... but these days everything has to be pushed to the very extreme one way or another.

  8. Great post. Longevity for our beloved dogs is something we all wish, hope, and pray for. So anything we can do to help them, is so worth it! With Huskies, they have those double-coated coats so I have to thoroughly check them. I also have bloodwork & stool samples done at least once a year for them. I do use a preventative, but having had a dog who had contracted heartworm and had to go through the treatment, which is so rough on them, I make sure they get it!

    1. The heartworm treatment is absolutely nasty, that's for sure. That's why heartworm prevention is one thing I'd never ever mess around with.


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