Dogs and cats are susceptible to many types of internal parasites, more commonly referred to as “worms”. Because Texas has a warm climate, parasite eggs can live for months and years in the soil. Some of the worms can also be transmitted to humans and cause a health hazard for your family. Puppies and kittens are especially susceptible to worms that may be transmitted through the placenta, breast milk or unclean birthplace.
Nearly all pets get worms sometime in their lives; therefore it is important to have the fecal material of all dogs and cats examined under the microscope by your veterinarian at least once each year.
In most cases you cannot see worms, and you will not know that there is a problem until your pet becomes ill. You may notice poor appetite, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, weight loss, potbelly, rough-dry coat or an overall “rundown” appearance.
The Most Common Internal Parasites:
1) Roundworms – are extremely prevalent in our pets and can be transmitted to humans. They look like white spaghetti noodles and can reach 4 inches in length. Although they live in the intestinal tract, they can migrate through other vital organs. Pets and children playing on contaminated soil can be infected.
2) Tapeworms – are segmented, flat, ribbon-like and white. They can reach up to 20 inches in length, and you may see tapeworm “segments” clinging to the hair near the tail of your pet. The head of the tapeworm has suckers and hooks that attach to the wall of the intestine. This causes irritation, inflammation and sometimes vomiting.
3) Hookworms – are tiny, thread-like bloodsucking parasites with razor-sharp mouth parts that pierce your pet’s small intestine. This tissue damage causes anemia and bloody diarrhea.
4) Whipworms – have long, thin front ends and a thick hind end that resembles a “whip”. They can be 2-3 inches in length, and the thin front part of the worm threads itself into the intestinal lining, where its spear-like tooth slashes the intestine apart. Your pet may experience weight loss, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, anemia and dehydration.
5) Giardia – are protozoa, microscopic single-celled organisms. Pets and humans are susceptible and become infected by drinking contaminated water from streams, creeks or ponds, or by eating the droppings of wild animals. Clinical signs range from mild intestinal discomfort to explosive diarrhea.
6) Coccidia – are protozoa, which are also microscopic single-celled organisms. It is primarily an infection of young animals but is more common in dirty, crowded and stressful environments. This protozoa invades the intestinal lining causing tissue destruction, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, weakness and dehydration.
Conclusion: There are hundreds of internal parasites in our environment waiting to find a host, and we have only listed a few of them! To prevent infection and keep your pet healthy; ● Take your new puppy or kitten to your veterinarian at an early age. ● Have your veterinarian examine your pet’s fecal material under the microscope at least once each year. ● Never feed your pet on the ground, use only clean food and water bowls. ● Always clean up your pet’s stools to reduce soil contamination. ● Wash your hands before eating, and instruct your children to wash their hands after playing outside. ● Do not go barefoot in parks or contaminated yards. ●Regularly sanitize your dog’s kennel or pen.
Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the health of your pet. As their Primary Health Care Providers, we want you to know everything about keeping your pet healthy.