Learn about Pet Parasites 0 Comments

What’s in a stool sample? Although it’s not the most glamorous part of our job, at Canine Retreat, we regularly inspect dog feces so we can let owners know if we see anything abnormal. Dogs tend to eat things that upset their stomach, so a loose stool once in a while does not necessarily warrant an immediate trip to the vet. However, if your dog exhibits continual loose stools or signs of parasitism you should make and appointment with a doctor right away.

Many dog owners are not very familiar with the common parasites that can use your pet as a host. It is helpful to know a little bit about some of the most common pet parasites. If you see worms in your pet’s stool, you should know that Tapeworms look like pieces of rice, while Roundworms look like strands of spaghetti. It is easy to prevent as well as treat these common pet parasites.

To help you learn more about these and other common pet parasites, we have included a blog article written by Dr. Anne-Marie Reikes, DVM at Rolling Hills Animal Hospital. We found this article extremely informative and believe you will as well.  

Don’t Waste Your Pet’s Waste When Coming to the Vet

by Anne-Marie Reikes, DVM

Dr. Oz frequently stresses the importance of “looking at your poop”. Why should it be any different for our pets? It may sound like a harrowing activity, but a lot of important information regarding your pet’s health can be gathered from assessing their feces. One of the most common ailments that we see in veterinary medicine is gastrointestinal (GI) parasitism. If you’re lucky, you might spot a worm in the stools, but more often than not, these infections can go undetected. Some common GI parasites may even be transmitted to humans (zoonotic) and this can pose an equally undesirable risk. To help prevent these worries or to spot them, should they already exist in your pet, we’ve complied a Top 4 list of the most common GI parasites that we see in small animal medicine.

1. Tapeworms are perhaps arguably the most common parasite we see in cats and dogs. They are typically acquired when an animal ingests a flea during grooming, which is unfortunately already infected with a tapeworm. Once the undeveloped tapeworm finds itself nestled inside your beloved pet, it basically takes up residence, using the opportunity to mature into an adult tapeworm. The good news is tapeworms are easily treated with either an oral medication for cats and dogs, or a topical medication for cats. Although rare, humans can get tapeworms, but only by ingesting an infected flea. The best way to prevent your special pet from acquiring tapeworms is to keep them on flea control every month throughout the year.

2. Another common parasite that we see is roundworms, which can affect both cats and dogs. Roundworms can be transmitted several ways, including ingesting infective eggs from the soil, consuming prey that is carrying developing worms, and during nursing or gestation via the placenta from an infected mother dog orRoundworms are frequently described as long and spaghetti-like. Treatment typically consists of one of several oral and/or topical medications.  In order to prevent roundworms, it is highly recommended to use a monthly flea and heartworm preventative that ALSO acts as a monthly de-wormer for other worms. If your vet hasn’t already suggested this to you as part of your pet’s healthcare regimen, ask!

3. While we do not see the next two GI worms as frequently in Southern California, they are very important and can cause some of the most severe clinical signs – and one even poses a significant zoonotic risk. Hookworms are unique in that they can be transmitted by penetrating the host’s skin directly, or can gain entry to your pet’s system through the soil that is licked and swallowed during natural pet self-preening. Hookworms also raise significant concern due to their zoonotic potential, causing cutaneous larva migraines in humans. This is one of the CDC’s top concerns for zoonosis as it can be as severe as causing permanent blindness in children. Whipworms are transmitted through ingestion of contaminated soil containing the infective larvae. Affected soil may remain contaminated for years and it is almost impossible to remove the infective eggs from the soil. Again, the best thing that you can do is to prevent these infections by making sure that your pet is on a monthly heartworm preventative that is effective against BOTH hookworms and whipworms.

4. Last but by no means least, are two parasites that while invisible to the naked eye, are the most frequently found on microscopic fecal examinations. Giardia and coccidia are protozoal infections that can cause extreme diarrhea, on and off loose stool, or sometimes no clinical changes in stool at all! We even find these parasites in indoor only pets because the owners can track the cysts from the soil on their shoes into the house. Regardless of if your animal is showing signs or not, it is important to treat both of these parasites with oral medication, especially since giardia does pose a slight zoonotic risk.

One of the most important things that you can do for your pet is to schedule annual fecal examinations by your veterinarian to make sure that your pet remains in optimal health. While this may mean driving with a pet poop sample to your next vet visit, we’re sure you won’t mind. After all, it is for the health of your pet!



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