Parasites might be small, but they can sure cause big problems when it comes to your pet’s health. Some can be seen with the naked eye while others require a microscope. Either way, they can make both you and your pet sick. Luckily, Shelden Veterinary Care has some great tools for parasite prevention in pets.
So, what exactly are we dealing with? Internal parasitic worms and organisms attack your pet’s intestinal tract and organs, wreaking havoc on their health. An infection is usually acquired in one of three ways:
- Parasites shed eggs in their host’s feces; these eggs then live in the environment and are picked up by your pet.
- Puppies and kittens are commonly infected through nursing or during fetal development.
- Wildlife can carry parasites, so pets that hunt and eat wildlife are commonly affected.
Usually, pets with an intestinal parasite have diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss – but not always. Sometimes your pet may be infected, and you might not know it. Because some of these parasites can be transmitted to humans, we’re very careful about prevention and treatment.
Annual parasite screening and fecal testing are important to make sure your pet doesn’t have an infestation. At times, we’ll treat pets with a dewormer, especially during kitten and puppy visits. Monthly preventives throughout your pet’s life are also critical.
Below are the most common internal parasites we see:
Roundworms — Roundworms resemble pieces of spaghetti and can be seen with the naked eye. They can infect people and pets and can be dangerous when they migrate to internal organs or the eyes, causing blindness.
Hookworms — Hookworms attach to your pet’s intestinal wall and can cause bloody diarrhea. They can also infect people and cause skin lesions.
Whipworms — Whipworms can live in the environment for years.
Tapeworms — These resemble grains of rice in your pet’s feces or near the base of their tail. Immature tapeworms live in fleas. When your pet grooms a flea off and swallows it, the tapeworm hatches and infects your pet.
Giardia — These microscopic organisms can be found in contaminated water, soil, or plants and can cause severe diarrhea.
Parasite Prevention in Pets
To protect your pet and your family, take the following measures:
- Use a monthly heartworm preventive that also targets intestinal parasites.
- Wash hands after coming inside from outdoors.
- Use gardening gloves when working in the soil.
- Clean cat litter boxes daily and wash hands afterwards.
- Cover children’s sandboxes when not in use to prevent outdoor cats from using them as litter boxes.
- Clean up your dog’s feces regularly and wash hands afterwards.
- Schedule regular preventive care exams and bring a fresh stool sample for testing.
- Use effective flea control to prevent tapeworms.
- Do not allow children to put dirt in or around their mouths.
- Make sure your pet has clean drinking water; don’t allow them to drink from sources that might be contaminated with feces (such as streams or standing water).
- Any new pet entering your home should be tested immediately for internal parasites and treated if necessary.
We hope we’ve given you some useful tips for parasite prevention in pets. Please call us with questions or to schedule an appointment.