There are many types of intestinal parasites that can affect our pets. This is why it is so important to have your pet’s stool checked annually by your veterinarian. Our furry friends contract these parasites by ingesting the eggs of the parasite in contaminated water, feces, dirt, or food. The way your veterinarian confirms whether or not your pet is positive for these parasites is by doing an intestinal parasite screening or “stool check.” Your pet’s stool will contain eggs of the parasite it has. Your veterinary staff is able to see these eggs under the lens of a microscope and can identify the parasite that way. Once they have a diagnosed parasite your veterinarian can dispense the proper medication to clear the parasite from your pets intestinal tract! Not all parasites can be treated with the same medication which is why the screening is very important. A good way to keep your pet parasite free is to keep your pet on a heartworm, flea, and tick product as they often prevent intestinal parasite infections as well!
Roundworm: These are the most common parasitic worms found in dogs and cats. Almost all pets become infected with them at some point in their lives, usually as puppies and kittens. Roundworms are contracted in many ways making them easy to spread and hard to control. These worms can be passed in the womb or through mothers milk. They can be passed through small mammals with roundworm larvae present in their tissues. Adult roundworms live in your pets intestines. Many pets do not have signs of infection but if the infection is severe, we can see weight loss, dull hair coat, and a pot bellied appearance. The pet may cough if the worms move to the lungs. You may see the worms in your pets feces, they are white or brown in color and can be several inches long, most of the time the body reabsorbs the worm and only the eggs remain to be seen in the stool. Treatment for rounds is fairly easy with a dewormer from your veterinarian, keeping your pets feces picked up and living area clean. Also using monthly preventives like Trifexis will prevent new infections. Round worms also pose a significant risk to humans. Contact with contaminated soil or feces can result in human ingestion and infection.
Hookworm: This parasite also resides in the intestines of your pet and latches onto the intestinal wall and feeds on your pets blood. Again the eggs are shed and passed through your pets feces. Since this parasite feeds on blood it can cause internal blood loss making them a serious threat to your pet, especially puppies and kittens. In older pets blood loss may be more chronic and the pet may have diarrhea, dark stool, and show weight loss. Keeping the pet’s surroundings clean and on a monthly parasite prevention will prevent future infections. Some hookworms can infect humans as well by penetrating the skin, this is most likely to happen when walking bear foot on the beach or other areas where pets deposit feces. Infection causes an itching sensation at the point of penetration and there are visible tracks on the skin, this infection in humans is easily treated but can cause mild to severe discomfort to the affected person.
Whipworm: This is one of the four most common intestinal parasites of dogs. This particular parasite resides in the cecum, which is inside your dogs body where the large intestine and small intestine meet. They can become infected by ingesting eggs of this parasite in the soil or other substances that contain dog feces. If the infection is found early there may be no symptoms as the infection grows your dog may have bloody diarrhea. If left untreated Whipworms can cause serious disease and even death for your pet. Once your yard is infected the parasite can remain in the soil for several years making it possible for your pet to reinfect themselves over and over again. Keeping monthly preventives on your dog, cleaning up feces in the yard regularly, and checking stool for parasites annually will keep your buddy parasite free.
Coccidia: Are tiny single-celled parasites that live in the wall of your pet’s intestines. They are more often found in puppies and kittens, but can infect older dogs and cats too. Pets become infected by swallowing contaminated soil or other substances in the environment that may contain infected animal feces. Coccidiosis, the disease caused by Coccidia may not cause any symptoms in older dogs and cats but can be serious for kittens and puppies. The most common sign of Coccidia is diarrhea. More serious infections can have bloody diarrhea. Severe infections can result in death. An intestinal parasite screening can diagnose this parasite and then your veterinarian can prescribe the proper medication to treat the infection.
Tapeworm: This particular parasite attaches itself to the wall of your pet’s small intestines. The worm itself can grow to be 8 inches long and is made up of small segmented pieces. As the worm matures in the intestines the tail end segments break off and come out in your pets stool. You will see the segments in the stool, around your pets anus, in the hair around the anus, and even can find them on your pets bedding. Tapeworms are typically are transmitted to your pet by ingesting tapeworm eggs carried by fleas or rodents. Tapeworms can cause vomiting and weight loss. The segments can cause irritation by the anus and you may notice your pet scooting their rear on the floor. After treating for tapeworm you need to find the source whether that is a flea infestation or if your pets are killing rodents and use preventives to keep your pet tapeworm free.
Giardia: Is a single-celled parasite that also can live in your dog’s intestine. Older dogs can be infected but primarily we see puppies infected. They can ingest this parasite by swallowing it when it is present in water or other substances that have been soiled with infected feces. Many dogs infected with Giardia do not get any disease. Giardiasis the disease caused by a Giardia infection, usually results in diarrhea. Having the infection for a long time can result in weight loss, poor general condition, and even death. The best way to prevent infection is to make sure your dog has clean drinking water and to not allow them to drink any water where other animals have left their feces. Your veterinarian can run a test on your pets stool to see if it is infected with Giardia, if positive they can prescribe a safe and effective treatment. Giardia is a common cause for diarrhea in people but dog Giardia is not generally considered to spread from animals to humans. While human Giardia can infect dogs and then be passed on to humans, the majority of human cases are of human origin. Preventing direct contact when cleaning up feces, wearing gloves, or a bag over your hands when cleaning up your pets stool can help prevent exposure. Always wash hands thoroughly after cleaning up or handling stool.
This is an example of what Tapeworms can look like. This was brought in by one of our very own patients!