Intestinal Parasites in Dogs and Cats
Perhaps your pet will never have intestinal parasites. But, unpleasant as
it may seem, pet owners should be aware of worms and other parasites that can
affect their animals' health.
Cats and dogs are the favorite nesting grounds of four principal groups of
worms and a few species of microscopic protozoa.
The four worms are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Among
the protozoa are coccidia, toxoplasma, giardia, and ameba.
Proper identification is vital. Unfortunately, in the case of parasites,
identification isn't always easy because adult worms release their eggs
sporadically. Knowing exactly what the problem is, is the first step in
finding a solution.
It's very important to bring your pet's fecal sample (bowel movement) to
your veterinarian as often as requested up to one year of age. Collect fresh
fecal sample within 12 hours of an examination. It is also very important to
keep the samples cool or refrigerated. A microscopic examination of the fecal
sample will be performed to identify the worm's eggs.
An annual fecal check is also good preventive medicine.
Treatment begins once the specific parasites are identified. It's important
to realize that different parasites will require different medications. Your
veterinarian can administer the proper treatment for your pet. There are also
some new preventive medicines on the market. Check with your veterinarian
about whether these are appropriate for your pet.
Tapeworms are of special concern. Tapeworm segments resemble small pieces of
rice. They are one of the few parasites that may be seen in a bowel movement
or clinging to the hair near your pet's tail. If you notice these segments,
carefully place them in a small container and take them to your veterinarian
for positive identification along with a fecal sample. Several types of worms
may be involved, and it is important to identify
all of them for proper treatment.
Once identification is made, the proper deworming medication must be
administered. With some intestinal worms, treatment of the environment also
may be needed.
Most treatments take only a few days. However, periodic checking is
necessary to be sure that all intestinal worms have been eliminated. A fecal
sample should be reexamined about three to four weeks after the deworming.
Your veterinarian may request an additional fecal sample at a later date.
Once the problem is treated, it makes sense to prevent reinfection. Bowel
movements are the greatest source of most worms. To avoid worms, keep your pet
away from areas where other animals have relieved themselves and dispose of
bowel movements as quickly as possible in your own yard.
Under some conditions of poor hygiene, worms can be transmitted to humans.
Discuss the risk of human exposure with your veterinarian.
A change in appetite, coughing, diarrhea (sometimes with blood), weight
loss, a rough-dry coat, or just an overall poor appearance are symptoms caused
by intestinal worms.
If you suspect the presence of parasites, consult your veterinarian
immediately. Sometimes healthy, well-fed pets do not show signs of intestinal
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