Dogs and cats are not just pets. They are treated like members of the family. And like any member of your family, it’s important to keep your companion animal healthy and free of parasites.
It is common for a dog or cat to become infected with an internal parasite during its lifetime. Internal parasites can cause problems ranging from simple irritation to more serious conditions if left untreated. Some internal parasites can infect and pass on diseases to people. Children, pregnant women, and those with low immunity are at risk. Your veterinarian can help prevent, accurately diagnose and safety treat parasites and other health problems that not only affect your dog or cat, but also the safety of you and your family.
Internal parasites are harmful organisms that can live inside an unprotected dog or cat. These include:
Tapeworms – Tapeworms get their name because they are thin and flat, like strips of tape. Unlike the smooth-bodied roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, tapeworms’ bodies are actually made up of joined segments. Dogs and cats become infected with tapeworms when they eat infected fleas or lice. They can also get certain types of tapeworms by eating infected rodents.
Roundworms – Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite in dogs and cats in the world. Animals with roundworms pass the infection to other animals when the worm eggs develop into larvae and are present in the animal’s feces (droppings). Your pet can pick up the infection by eating infected soil, licking contaminated fur or paws, or by drinking contaminated water.
Infected female dogs may pass the infection to their puppies before birth or afterwards when they are nursing. Infected female cats cannot infect their kittens before birth, but can pass on the infection through their milk when kittens are nursing.
Hookworms – Hookworms are the second most common intestinal parasites found in dogs, but they are less commonly found in cats. Your pet can become infected when larvae penetrate the animal’s skin or the lining of the mouth. An infected female dog can pass the infection to her puppies through her milk, but this does not occur in cats.
Whipworms – These worms get their name from their whip-like shape. Animals with whipworms pass the infection along to other animals when the worm eggs develop into larvae and are passed in their feces (droppings). Your pet can pick up the infection by eating infected soil or licking their contaminated fur or paws.
Coccidia – Coccidia are single-celled parasites and are not visible to the naked eye. Your pet can become infected by eating infected soil or licking contaminated paws or fur. Once swallowed, the parasites damage the lining of the intestine and your pet cannot absorb nutrients from its food. Bloody, watery diarrhea may result, and the animal may become dehydrated because it loses more water in its stool than it can replace by drinking. Young pets are most often infected because their immune systems may not yet be strong enough to fight off the parasite. Coccidia can be very contagious among young puppies and kittens, so households with multiple pets should be especially careful to practice good hygiene and sanitation.
A routine fecal test by a veterinarian will detect the presence of coccidia. Treatment with medications will prevent the parasite from multiplying and allow time for your pet’s immune system to kill them.
Giardia – Giardia is also a single-celled parasite that, if swallowed, can damage the lining of the intestine and reduce the absorption of nutrients from the food your pet eats. While most Giardia infections do not cause illness, severe infections can lead to diarrhea.
Giardia is harder to diagnose than other intestinal parasites, and several stool samples may have to be tested before it is found. If necessary, your veterinarian will recommend treatment with medications to eliminate the infection. Because it is highly contagious among animals, good hygiene and sanitation are important when there are multiple pets in the household.
Other Parasites that may affect the health of your pets are:
OBSERVE, PROTECT AND PREVENT
It is easier and less expensive to prevent parasites than to treat them once infection has occurred. It is also safer for your family to have a parasite free pet. Year round prevention is the best way to control internal parasites. This usually includes a specialized fecal test by a trained laboratory technician.
Dogs and cats become infected when they ingest parasite eggs that have been passed through the feces of an infected animal. People can also accidently ingest these parasite eggs if left in the environment. Your veterinarian is here to diagnose, treat, and prevent parasites. Talk to your veterinarian about how you can implement the three steps program:
Monitor your dog or cat for changes in behavior, appetite, or water consumption. If your pet is showing any of these following signs, consult with you veterinarian:
Worms in feces or vomit
Even if you dog or cat shows no signs of infection, a routine internal parasites exam is still recommended. This is because animals instinctively hide signs of illness.
Along with the advice from your veterinarian, reduce the risk of infection and protect your family and pet by following these simple steps:
Properly dispose of your pet’s fecal material
Wear shoes when outdoors
Keep the sandbox covered when not in use
Make sure your pet has clean safe drinking water
Avoid contact with feces by using gloves
Encourage children and adults to wash their hands regularly
Tapeworms come from fleas. Flea control is an essential protective measure. Please speak with us about safe and effective flea control.
It is important that you take your dog or cat to see your veterinarian at least annually for a specialized fecal test. This professional examination will identify any parasite that may be present
If there is infection, proper treatment can be given for the specific parasite identified. Remember, your veterinarian is here to help prevent parasites that can affect the health of your pet and family. Along with the advice of your veterinarian, follow these recommendations to prevent parasites infection:
Have fecal examination done two to four times per year for pets under one year of age.
Have fecal examinations done one to two times per year for adult pets
Conduct physical examinations and wellness testing one to two times per year
Use a monthly parasite control product recommended by your veterinarian
Follow established guidelines for routine de-worming
Treat nursing bitches and queens along with their offspring
Tailor parasite prevention programs to parasite prevalence and pet lifestyle.
TCAC goal is to make sure your pet stays healthy and happy family member. Wellness examination is a vital tool for them to achieve this objective.