Parasites and Your Pet

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For many of us the family pet greatly enhances our lives and is an important member of the family. Just as we want to protect our family from infection and diseases, we naturally want to protect the family pet from internal parasites. Pets can harbor zoonotic parasites that can potentially be transmitted to people. Precautions for preventing the spread of zoonotic diseases are necessary and often are deemed more significant when there are young children in the household. Parasitic larvae can migrate within the human body damaging tissues and possibly result in blindness. Many of the  common internal parasites of dogs and cats are transmissible to people. Children are at the greatest risk for acquiring a zoonotic parasite. This certainly is influenced by their penchant for putting anything and everything into their mouths, playing in the dirt, and lack of concern about washing their hands.

What are Intestinal Parasites and Where Does My Pet Get Them?

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Intestinal parasites are worms that live in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Worms cause disease by robbing nutrients from the pet’s digestive system and leave internal wounds where they attach to the intestinal lining. Some major intestinal parasites are: hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, coccidia, and giardia. Most puppies and kittens are born with parasites or acquire them shortly after birth from nursing. If pets are exposed to contaminated areas (places where fecal matter may be or has been) or other pet waste they could ingest eggs or larvae which can develop into adult worms. Unfortunately worm eggs and larvae are in many places in the outdoor environment. All pets are susceptible to infection with internal parasites.

What are Some Symptoms of Intestinal Parasites?

Not all intestinal parasites/worms are visible in your pets stool.  Depending on the worm load of your pet there may be no recognizable signs of infection.  Overwhelming number of worms living in the intestinal tract could cause vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, pot-bellied appearance, coughing, weight loss, and even death. The best way to determine if your pet has internal parasites is to have a fecal exam performed yearly on your pet.

How Do I Protect My Family?

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  • Regular veterinary examinations and fecal testing for your pet
  • Always wash hands after handling pet or pet toys
  • Avoid contact with pet urine or feces
  • Never eat anything your pet may have licked or had in their mouth
  • Wear gloves when gardening or playing in dirt or sandboxes

Monthly deworming and heartworm preventatives are available and have been proven to be almost 100% effective if administered properly. At a minimum yearly fecal examinations can screen pets and allow for the development of a tailored deworming program.

Why Is A Fecal Exam Recommended? Why Not Just Deworm My Pet?

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Fecal flotations’ are laboratory tests in which the feces is mixed with a special solution and spun in a centrifuge. The solution causes the eggs to float upward and collect on a microscope slide placed on top of the cylinder. A fecal exams reveals which parasites, if any, that your pet has and the number. This allows for development of an effective deworming program to rid your pet of unwanted internal parasites. Certain parasites require your pet be redewormed two to three months later in order to effectively break the egg-larvae-adult cycle. Routine deworming is only recommended in puppies and kittens since they are often born with internal parasites or acquire them soon after birth.