Monthly Awareness

October is Intestinal Parasites Awareness Month

Most people are aware that their pets have worms, but what are these worms? and how do you get rid of them? When pet owners are talking about worms, they are actually talking about gastrointestinal parasites. And there are several gastrointestinal parasites that commonly affect our dogs and cats.


1. Roundworm
They are long and thin worms that are similar to thin spaghetti and are visible in your puppy's vomit or stool. This parasite can pass through the placenta (only in puppies), through the milk (puppies and kittens) or be ingested (puppies and kittens). A large percentage of puppies and kittens are born with microscopically small roundworm larvae in their tissues. These worms can grow up to 5 inches in length. Puppies that are infected with roundworms, usually have a pot-bellied appearance.

2. Hookworms
Hookworms are much more common in dogs than in cats. They are very small, thin worms that fasten to the wall of the small intestine and feed on blood. Hookworm infection causes anemia which sometimes is fatal in young, weak or malnourished animals. It takes three weeks from the time of infection until eggs are passed into the stool.

3. Giardia
This is a flagellated protozoa (one celled organism) that infects the small intestine of dogs and cats. Giardia damages the lining of the intestine and reduces the absorption of nutrients from food that your pet eats. Most cases of giardia in young animals cause explosive, watery diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, and an unkempt appearance.

4. Tapeworms
These worms can be visually detected the with the naked eye and are transmitted to dogs and cats by ingestion of infected fleas. They are long and flat and they attach themselves to the lining of the small intestines. When they reach maturity, they will segment and parts of their bodies will break off and enter the dog's digestive system where they will be passed in the feces or found attached to the pet's fur. Tapeworm segments resemble grains of rice when fresh or sesame seeds when dry.

5. Coccidia
These are intestinal protozoas that invades and infects the lining cells of small intestine. The most common way of becoming infected with coccidian is ingestion of avian feces or ingestion of feces from an infected animal. Symptoms include diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucous), weight loss and lethargy.

6. Whipworms
These worms are more often seen in dogs than cats. Adult whipworms, although seldom seen in stool, look like tiny pieces of thread with one end enlarged. Infestations are hard to detect because whipworms are not prolific egg layers. Eggs do not appear in the feces until three months post infection and are quite resistant to weather, surviving in the environment for up to five years.

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