Intestinal Parasite Screening & Prevention
There are several intestinal parasites that can be found in cats and dogs. Fecal tests should be performed annually (more frequently in high risk situations) to identify these parasites. Although clients sometimes see “worms” in the stool, many parasites cannot be identified without using microscopic testing. Using heartworm prevention monthly can greatly reduce your pet’s risk for contracting certain intestinal parasites.
Roundworms and Hookworms
Roundworms and hookworms are common in puppies and kittens. Roundworms can be transferred from the mother to the baby via the placenta and the milk in puppies and via the milk in kittens. Hookworms are transferred throught the milk in dogs. The mother does not have to have an active infection in order to transfer the parasites. If left untreated the worms can cause diarrhea and in more advanced cases, weightloss, vomiting, dehydration, and overall poor body and coat condition. Puppies and kittens are routinely dewormed with medication for these parasites. Infections can be prevented by using monthly heartworm prevention.
Whipworms are contracted by dogs through direct or indirect contact with infected feces in the environment. They can cause bloody diarrhea as they disrupt the intestinal wall and in severe cases lead to dehydration and anemia. Whipworms can be treated with specific deworming medications and prevented by certain heartworm preventives.
Coccidia is a single celled organism that can infect the small and sometimes large intestine of dogs and cats. Coccidia is more common is puppies and kittens, especially those coming from high volume breeding facilities or outdoor facilities. Coccidia are not infective until they sporulate in the environment which takes <16hrs. The sporulated oocysts can then survive in a protected environment (where there are no extreme temperatures) for years. Cleaning up feces in the environment immediately can help prevent the spread of coccidia. Specific medications are used to treat coccidia. This parasite is not prevented with monthly heartworm prevention.
Giardia is spread in cats and dogs by ingesting the cyst, often from contaminated water, food, or fur during grooming. This parasite causes diarrhea or soft stools that could occur intermittently. The treatment consists of medication and bathing the pet to remove any cysts from the coat. There is no preventive medication for Giardia. Always provide clean drinking water for your pet and deter him/her from drinking out of ponds or standing water sources.
Tapeworms are transmitted through a flea or rodent that acts as an intermediate host. Dogs and cats become infected with tapeworm by ingesting the infected flea or rodent. Tapeworms can sometimes be identified by owners as a “rice-like” worm in the pet’s stool. Using a good flea prevention monthly can reduce your pet’s risk of contracting tapeworms. A deworming regimen may be recommended by your veterinarian if your pet is an avid hunter.