Dogs and cats can fall victim to many different types of parasites. Because many of these parasites live in their intestines, veterinarians will take stool samples during your pet’s annual wellness exam to check for signs of intestinal parasites. Intestinal parasites are not uncommon, especially in young animals, which is why wellness exams are so important for maintaining your pet’s good health.
The most common symptoms of these parasites are diarrhea, weight loss, a dull coat, coughing, and fatigue. With some parasites, you may be able to see worms in your pet’s stool, bedding, or under their tail. Puppies and kittens are especially at risk for health complications from intestinal parasites and, in serious cases, these parasites can be fatal. Another risk is caused by some parasitic infections being “zoonotic,” which means that they can be transmitted to humans. These parasites can cause serious health issues in adults and children, including scarring inflammation.
To determine if your pet has intestinal parasites, we will take a stool sample to test for the presence of microscopic eggs laid by adult worms. We will then mix the sample with a solution that makes the eggs more visible underneath the microscope. In some cases we can run the test in-house with our lab equipment, and in other cases we will send the sample to an outside lab. Either way, we almost always have results of the test back within 24 hours.
After a diagnosis has been made, intestinal worms can be treated by using a dewormer solution. Other types of parasites require different types of medications to treat. There are some over-the-counter treatments for intestinal worms, but these don’t work very well. Veterinarians have the most powerful and effective dewormers available for treating your pet.
Preventing infection by intestinal parasites is highly dependent on good sanitation practices. Below are some guidelines for good intestinal parasite prevention, in addition to routine fecal screenings.
• Clean up your pet’s droppings as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of infection.
• Make sure your pet has a source of fresh, clean water, because these parasites can often be found in contaminated water.
• Prevent your pet from eating soil or grass, which can contain parasitic eggs.
• Remember that droppings from other dogs might be infested–be sure that your dog doesn’t interact with these while out on walks.
• Use a monthly heartworm preventative medicine for your pet.
• Use a monthly flea prevention treatment to prevent parasite transmission to your pets from infected fleas.
• Don’t allow yourself or your family become infected–wash your hands after playing with your pet and make sure that outdoor play areas for your children, like sandboxes, do not contain any animal droppings.
If your pet has been scooting, vomiting, having diarrhea, losing weight, coughing occasional, or has a distended abdomen, they could be suffering from intestinal parasites. During the month of September we are offering 50% off all fecal screenings, so it would be a great time to have your pet screened for intestinal parasites if you haven’t done so recently! Give us a call at 503-395-1649 if you’re interested in dropping off a stool sample for us to test.