Fleas, ticks and heartworms aren’t the only parasites that can put your pet’s health at risk here in Oxford, MS. Intestinal worms, including a single-celled parasite called Giardia, can be spread among dogs, cats, and sometimes humans, and can cause serious health problems for our pets. The most common intestinal parasites our pets have to contend with are:
- Hookworms (more common in dogs than cats)
- Whipworms (more common in dogs than cats)
It is important to realize that many puppies and kittens begin their lives with some type of intestinal parasite (particularly roundworms). This often occurs due to the mother being infected, and unknowingly passing the parasite on to her young either in the womb or while they are nursing. Therefore, deworming is usually necessary at your pet’s initial health visits to Bottletree Animal Hospital.
Symptoms of Worms in Dogs and Cats
There are several ways to tell if your pet is infected with worms. Clinical symptoms usually include:
- Blood in stool/vomit
- Distended abdomen
- Weight loss
Occasionally, pet parents may see evidence of roundworms or tapeworms in their pet’s stool (other parasites are not detectable with the unaided eye). Sometimes, tapeworm segments can also be found in the fur below the pet’s tail, resembling flattened grains of rice.
What is Giardia?
Giardia is a single-celled parasite that makes its home in the intestines of puppies and dogs. Giardia is often found in water, where it can be unknowingly ingested by your dog, or in other substances contaminated with infected feces. Giardiasis, the disease caused by Giardia, often results in diarrhea. Prolonged infection can lead to weight loss, an overall poor body condition, and, at worst, death.
Preventing Giardia in Dogs
First, your pet’s chances of contracting Giardia are much higher if they are wading around/swimming in a pond or lake, or sniffing around water sources that are likely to have animal feces. Make sure that wherever you take your pet, they have a fresh, clean water source from which to drink.
Second, to prevent the spread of Giardia if your pet recently tested positive, pick up their feces immediately and dispose of them responsibly. For added safety, wear disposable gloves while doing so.
How to Prevent the Spread of Intestinal Parasites
As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to consider not only your pet’s safety, but the safety of other pets who may be at risk for infection.
Clean Up After Your Pet
Many intestinal parasites are spread via direct contact with infected feces. Clear away your pet’s feces (either from the yard and/or litterbox) at least once a week, and always pick up after your dog when you go on walks or spend time at the public park.
Be Wary of Dog Parks
Use caution if you decide to take your dog to the dog park. While most dog parks have requirements to keep all visitors safe, this is not always enough to prevent the spreading of intestinal worm larvae.
Commit to Routine Parasite Screens
We recommend having your pet’s stool checked annually for signs of parasites. However, if your pet has a history of infection, we might suggest checking it more frequently. For persistent infestations, our veterinarians can prescribe routine worming treatments that are both safe for your pet, and effective at eliminating the parasites. Avoid over-the-counter worming treatments, which are likely to be less effective and less safe for your pet.
Keep Your Pet on Year-Round Parasite Prevention
Parasite preventatives for dogs and cats are an excellent way to protect against heartworms, fleas, and ticks, but they can also keep your pet free of intestinal parasites. We recommend year-round prevention to minimize your pet’s risk of infection as much as possible.
Intestinal Parasites are Treatable
If we find worm eggs in your pet’s stool, we can help you treat the parasites with veterinarian-prescribed medication. Some pets may need recurring treatments to ensure the complete elimination of their parasites.
Please contact our animal hospital if you notice any of the symptoms listed above in your pet. You can also drop off a stool sample for evaluation, and we’ll contact you once we’ve completed testing. Just give us a call at (662) 234-4336 or stop in for a stool check!