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Whipworms, tapeworms, trichinella, oh my?

Stories from HART

Whipworms, tapeworms, trichinella, oh my?

Sarah Myers

AdobeStock_roundworm.jpeg

Intestinal parasites are a common health issue in dogs. Many are familiar with external pests/parasites such as fleas and ticks, but not many people know that intestinal parasites can cause extensive health problems, too. Intestinal parasites live inside your pet’s G.I. tract and include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, trichinella, giardia, toxoplasma, and different protozoa.

Huh?

You’re probably wondering how your dog can get these nasty parasites and if there is anything that can be done to prevent this. Dogs usually get these invaders from unintentionally ingesting the eggs or spores of the parasite.

The most common parasite is the roundworm and most dogs will get roundworms at some point in his life. Puppies can receive these worms from their mother either in utero or while nursing. Roundworms and other parasites can come from contaminated water, fecal matter, food, and even soil in your yard. Tapeworms in particular can be transmitted if your dog eats an infected flea.

Your pet can become sick and alert you to the possible presence of intestinal parasites. Symptoms your dog may show can include vomiting, malnutrition, weight loss, and others.

If you suspect parasites or, as a preventative measure, you can test your pet’s fecal matter. Fecal testing is recommended annually. Simply put, fecal testing helps the vet to determine whether your pet has intestinal parasites. Some parasites can be too small to be seen, so many fecal tests are done with a microscope. These tests include: smears, where the feces is smeared across a piece of glass and observed under the microscope; a floatation, where the stool is mixed with a special solution that causes the eggs to float to the surface; and a centrifugation, where the stool is spun and suspended to observe the parasites.

Some parasite infections are zoonotic meaning that they typically occur in animals but can be transmitted to humans. Some parasites passed through contact with the an infected animal’s fecal matter can cause vision loss, lung issues or nervous system damage especially in children. While this may sound disgusting, do not be alarmed as intestinal parasites are treatable.

Treatment varies depending on the parasite, its size, and the severity, so it is important to consult with us at the Bredel Veterinary Clinic. We can diagnose and suggest treatment for your pet. It is also important to take steps to prevent these infections in the first place. Many heartworm medications can prevent these infections and we may consider putting your dog on monthly parasite preventative.

Dogs are not the only pet that can be affected by intestinal parasites; common signs for a cat with intestinal parasites include stunted growth, dull coat, unexplainably thin, lack of energy, and diarrhea. You can even look for a distended abdomen. It is rare for an indoor cat to get intestinal parasites, though. Cats are clean animals and parasites thrive in unsanitary environments. However, if you choose to get your cat’s feces examined, a smear is the most common type of fecal test. In an abundance of caution, we may suggest preventative measures for your cat through monthly parasite preventatives.