Bell Veterinary Clinic takes parasite prevention very seriously. There are two main types we will discuss. Internal parasites (or worms) and external parasites such as fleas and ticks. Call or email today to discuss with a doctor or certified veterinary technician ways you can be sure your pet is parasite free. Parasites can not only affect your pet’s health but also some parasites can be transmitted to people, especially young children and elderly. Just think of that catching that cat walking along your counter. Bring in a stool sample to have your pet tested today.
Internal Parasites (Worms and Protozoa)
Roundworms: Roundworms are often quite large — up to 10 to 12 centimeters in length — and can be present in extremely high numbers within an infected animal. When they are found in a dog’s body, it can lead to abdominal swelling (distension), colic, gastrointestinal issues and even intestinal rupture. Often you may not even know your dog or cat has roundworms, lots of pets don’t show any signs until they are very sick. Roundworms can be passed onto people.
When a disease can be passed from a pet to a person this is called zoonosis. Roundworms are zoonotic. From the CDC website “People infected with Ascaris often show no symptoms. If symptoms do occur they can be light and include abdominal discomfort. Heavy infections can cause intestinal blockage and impair growth in children. Other symptoms such as cough are due to migration of the worms through the body. Ascariasis is treatable with medication prescribed by your health care provider.”
Hookworms: Hookworms can be fatal, especially in puppies. As such, pet owners need to be vigilant for signs of hookworms in their dogs. These blood-sucking parasites can invade, inhabit, and live in the dog’s small intestines. In their fourth-stage larvae, the hookworms can cause anemia and inflammation in the dog’s small intestine. Active worms leave bite sites and those sites continue to seep blood.
Hookworms are also zoonotic, from the CDC “The eggs of these parasites are shed in the feces of infected animals and can end up in the environment, contaminating the ground where the animal defecated. People become infected when the zoonotic hookworm larvae penetrate unprotected skin, especially when walking barefoot or sitting on contaminated soil or sand. This can result in a disease called cutaneous larva migrans (CLM), when the larvae migrate through the skin and cause inflammation.”
Whipworms: Both dogs and cats suffer from the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) parasite. It is generally transmitted by ingesting infested matter, although whipworms can be contracted from other infected animals. Whipworm eggs can live in an environment anywhere from a few months to years, and can be present in soil, food, or water, as well as in feces or animal flesh. Additionally, whipworms infect dogs of any age.
Tapeworms: Tapeworms are flat intestinal worms that are made up of many small segments, each about ¼ – ½” (3-5 mm) long. Unlike roundworms that live freely in the intestinal tract, tapeworms attach to the wall of the small intestine using hook-like mouthparts. Unlike roundworms, dogs cannot become infected by eating fertilized tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms must first pass through an intermediate host (a flea) before they can infect a dog. If you see tapeworms on your dog or cat (like pieces of rice underneath the tail), your pet likely needs to be treated for fleas.
Coccidia and Giardia are common parasites that your pet comes into contact in his or her outside environment. We look for these parasites which are also zoonotic (meaning people can get them too). Special treatments are required to control these protozoa.
Preventing and controlling these parasites in your pet helps keep them healthy and your pet healthy.