Intestinal parasitic worms and protozoa can make your dog or cat sick, and can be passed to your human family members as well. Read on to learn more about the more common intestinal parasites and how we can keep your new furry friend parasite-free.
Common Intestinal Worms
The most common intestinal worms infecting dogs and cats are roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. We assume that most pets are infected with these worms which are passed before birth or through the mother’s milk to the litter. They may also become infected by eating parasite eggs in the environment. Hookworm larvae can also infect your pet by penetrating through your pet’s paw pads.
Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite and are most prevalent in the Northeast U.S. Infected pets may have vomiting, diarrhea, and a distended belly. Pets with large numbers of roundworms may pass the spaghetti-looking worms in vomit or stool. Roundworms pose a significant health risk to humans. Contact with the eggs found in contaminated soil or feces can result in human ingestion. Although many people will not become sick, infection can cause eye, lung, heart and neurologic signs. It is estimated that 13.9% of the U.S. population has antibodies to round worms, suggesting that tens of millions of Americans have been exposed to this parasite. View photos and read more about roundworm infections in pets.
Hookworms make their way to the intestine where they suck blood causing potentially fatal blood loss. Symptoms of hookworm infection include diarrhea, weight loss, and weakness. Hookworm larvae can also pass through the skin on people’s bare feet and cause the person to have an uncomfortable rash. Thankfully, human hookworm infections are easily treatable, but of course it’s best if you stay infection free! View pictures and read more about hookworm infections.
Whipworms do not infect cats, but can cause serious disease in dogs. Infected dogs may have no symptoms until intestinal damage is severe causing bloody diarrhea and even death. Diagnosis can be difficult because worms do not consistently produce eggs and therefore infected dogs may have negative stool results. Therefore, veterinarians often deworm dogs with severe diarrhea just in case there is a parasite infection. View pictures and read more about whipworm infections.
Other Parasites: Tapeworms
Tapeworm infections usually do not make dogs and cats sick but certainly are disgusting when segments from the tapeworms are seen moving around on your pet’s hind end. Tapeworms can only infect your pet through ingesting an infected flea when grooming themselves or when eating an infected animal. Despite the old adage “you must have a tapeworm”, infected pets do not lose weight from the worms. And, contrary to popular belief, dogs that “scoot” on their rear ends are generally doing it for reasons other than having tapeworms, such as blocked or irritated anal sacs (pouches located in your dog’s rear end) or other skin inflammation of the rear. View pictures and read more about tapeworm infection in dogs.
Giardia and Coccidia
Coccidia is a common parasite of puppies and kittens although adults can also be infected. Giardia infects dogs and is transmissible to people. Human infection can be prevented with hand washing and removing your pet’s stool from the yard. Both coccidia and giardia can cause severe diarrhea, but are treatable with medication. Read more about guard and more about coccidia here.
Your Pet May Already Be Protected
Heartworm preventatives contain drugs that help prevent intestinal worms, so using a year round heartworm preventative is strongly recommended. We recommend Interceptor Plus and ProHeart 6 for dogs. If your pet does become infected with parasites, there are various effective treatments available. To ensure your pet and your family stay healthy, have your pet’s stool checked at Brookfield Animal Hospital after adoption and every 6 to 12 months thereafter.
Parasite Prevalence Map
The Companion Animal Parasite Council provides excellent data on parasite prevalence all over the country, including Fairfield County. Use this link to find out more on intestinal parasite infections in dogs in our area.