Protecting Your Pet and Your Family from Internal Parasites
Intestinal parasites include worms such as
roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm, and whipworm; as well as protozoan parasites
such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Tritrichomonas.
Fortunately, these parasites usually cause mild disease in our pets and, in
most cases, are easily controlled and treated. However, some pets have more
severe symptoms, particularly very young or very old pets, or those pets
with conditions that weaken their immune systems.
Certain types of intestinal parasites can
infect people as well, particularly children or people with immune system
disorders. In susceptible people, intestinal parasites can cause not only
intestinal infections, but also more serious conditions called larva migrans
disorders. Intestinal parasites are always going to be in our environment,
so in order to protect your pets and the rest of your family, take these
Puppies and Kittens
The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all puppies and kittens should
be regularly dewormed (receive broad-spectrum medication to kill any
intestinal parasites present) for the first 12 weeks of life. Puppies and
kittens usually become infected with intestinal parasites from their
mothers. Ideally, puppies and kittens should be treated every two weeks
starting at two weeks of age until they are 12 weeks old. However, since
most puppies and kittens arenít acquired by their new owners and brought to
the veterinarian until they are at least eight weeks old, the veterinarian
typically performs two dewormings.
Until the puppies and
kittens have completed their deworming regimen, take special care when
handling the pet or its stools. Children in particular should always be
supervised when playing with pet, taught to always wash their hands after
petting or handling the pet, and to avoid putting their fingers in their
mouths. Petsí stools should be promptly collected and disposed of, and
litter boxes should be cleaned at least daily.
Ongoing Parasite Prevention
All dogs and cats should
receive regular intestinal parasite control treatments. One of the easiest
ways to accomplish this is by maintaining pets on monthly heartworm
preventative. Most modern monthly heartworm preventatives protect against
one or more intestinal parasites as well. Consult your veterinarian to
determine which parasite control product makes the most sense for your pet.
Tapeworms are typically
contracted either through exposure to fleas that carry the tapeworm larvae
or by eating contaminated meat (through hunting outdoors or going through
the garbage). The best way to prevent tapeworm infections in your pet is to
use an effective monthly flea preventative, and to prevent your pet from
hunting wild animals or getting into the garbage.
Early Detection and Treatment
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
recommends that all pets receive a comprehensive wellness examination by a
veterinarian every six months. When scheduling your petís examination, be
sure to collect a fresh stool specimen from your pet and bring it in for
analysis for intestinal parasites. You can use a plastic sandwich bag to
collect and store the specimen, or your veterinarian may be able to supply a
The most common symptoms of
intestinal parasitism are vomiting, diarrhea, or a lack of energy and vigor.
In rare cases worms can be seen in the vomitus or stool. Tapeworm infections
sometimes result in small white rice grains (tapeworm segments) around the
anus and in the fur on the petís rear end. If any of these symptoms are
seen, or if you have any concerns about your petís health, you should
contact your veterinarianís office right away.