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PARASITES 101: The Internal Parasites in Pets!

“My dog does not interact with other dogs.”
“We only walk Fido around the block.” “My cat never goes outside.”

These are some quotes from pet owners that we hear when discussing deworming. There are many myths re: worms and your pets. The fact is that your pet CAN get worms at ANY TIME. Your pet does not need to be in direct contact with other animals to pick up worms. Your pet doesn’t even need to leave your house to pick up worms. You have a pet, it can happen. PREVENTION is the best option but on occasions when that doesn’t happen – treating for worms is relatively easy.

Intestinal parasites (live in the intestines) 

Roundworm (most puppies and kittens are born with these. Their Mother passed them on to them.)
Whipworm
Tapeworm
Lungworm
Hookworm

Intestinal worms can be a serious problem in young puppies. Hookworms can cause anemia and roundworms can lead to poor growth and development. Intestinal parasites are only occasionally life‐threatening in adult dogs, and are usually seen in debilitated animals or those that are immunosuppressed.

Worms are transmitted in many ways. Most are simply picked up through the feces of other infected animals. Even dogs that don’t leave their yards can become infected from another animal that may have defecated in your yard. Even if those feces were picked up the eggs are still in the ground… so your dog sniffs the area, the eggs are transferred to his nose, he licks his nose ingesting those eggs: VOILA! It really is as simple as that. Some other worms, for example the tapeworm is transmitted via a host such as a flea, mouse, bird etc. If your pet eats the host that is carrying the tapworm your pet will become infected with Tapeworms. Owners of indoor cats are easily confused as to how their pet acquired tapeworm when he’s never left the home… that cat, however, may have had a minor bout of fleas 2 months ago and therefore ingested a tapeworm carrying flea. Some other worms are transmitted through tiny breaks in your pets’ skin.

These worms are easily treated with either oral or topical medications. Your veterinary hospital sells a variety of safe treatments. Some treatments are a one‐time thing whereas others may need to be repeated.

As for how often you need to deworm your pets – that depends entirely on what your pets’ risk factor is. For example, a dog that frequents the park or other locations frequented by other dogs you might want to consider monthly deworming. Dogs that never leave their yard perhaps 2‐3 times/year. Some people choose to bring in a fecal sample to the hospital for analysis first but it’s not necessary (although it is recommended to perform at least 2 fecal analysis per year per pet). If your pet has recently had a bout of fleas, de-worming for tapeworms might be a good prevention.

Some worms are zoonotic. This means they CAN be passed onto humans!

HEARTWORM (live in the heart) – is a very serious, life-threatening disease. It can only be acquired through the bite of an infected mosquito. There are products sold by your veterinary hospital that are intended to prevent heartworm infection. It’s much easier and safer to prevent than to treat for heartworm.

GIARDIA & COCCIDIA (live in the intestines) –are a one-celled parasitic species (not a worm) but the devastation they leave behind is astounding. They can even cause death. Most pets will present with diarrhea/soft stools that may appear to *come and go*, bloody stools, vomiting, abdominal discomfort. Giardia can be contracted by drinking contaminated water or coming into contact with contaminated soil. Coccidia is transmitted through contaminated soil or by your pet eating a host that may be carrying the virus (ie: mouse) These 2 organisms are INCREDIBLY resilient to environmental conditions, therefore, can last for quite some time in the soil. There is no prevention for these infections but they do require medical treatment. A fecal analysis and antibiotics are required.

Giardia IS zoonotic!

Check back to our blog for more information on parasite season and most importantly parasite prevention!

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