Intestinal parasites live in a pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Many pets infected with intestinal parasites are asymptomatic and seem healthy upon first glance. However, infestations of intestinal parasites can lead to weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and anemia. At TCAP we believe that it is important for pet owners to know what to look for and how to protect their pets from intestinal parasites since many of these parasites can cause serious health conditions for both people and pets.
Intestinal parasites can be classified into two groups: worms and protozoa. Intestinal worms include roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite found in both dogs and cats. Roundworm larvae cause damage to a pet’s lungs and can lead to serious respiratory problems. Once roundworms mature, pets (particularly puppies and kittens) can develop vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. Tapeworms are another common parasite and are usually seen with the appearance of tapeworm segments in your pet’s stool that look like grains of rice. These are found near your pet’s anus or near his favorite bedding most frequently.
Protozoa are microscopic organisms that are larger than bacteria, but smaller than you can see with the naked eye. Protozoa that infect animals commonly in our service area include Giardia and Coccidia. The protozoa are treated with antibiotics, but the antibiotic chosen is specific for each type of condition. There is not one drug that will get them all. As you will see, protozoa tend to be more difficult to detect and treat than other common intestinal parasites.
How Pets Get Parasites
Intestinal parasites are more common than you might imagine. The most common way they are transmitted is through ingesting parasite eggs or spores located in contaminated soil, water, feces, food, or even in fleas. Puppies and kittens can also get intestinal parasites in utero or from nursing from an infected mother.
How to Detect, Treat, and Prevent Intestinal Parasites
Detecting intestinal parasites is easy with a TCAP fecal test. These $15.00 tests require a recent (less than 24 hours old) dime-sized sample of your pet’s stool. The results from this test will give you the information you need to treat and protect your pets. TCAP offers two affordable dewormers during our vaccine hours (link to vaccine hours).
Strongid-T is an oral dewormer that will treat roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms. This dewormer should be given with your pet’s puppy/ kitten boosters and annual vaccines. The Droncit dewormer will treat tapeworms and should only be given if you begin to notice tapeworm segments that look like white grains of rice in your pet’s stool. Because tapeworms are caused by fleas, it is always advised to treat your pet for fleas at the time of treating tapeworms to prevent tapeworm reinfection.
Through their monthly heartworm medications, many dogs already ingest a broad spectrum dewormer. If your dog is not already on a monthly heartworm preventative, please bring him in for a heartworm test to get them started on a monthly heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention. Through TCAP’s online store, we also have monthly medications for flea control and deworming for cats as well.
Although intestinal parasites are treatable, remember that the best way to protect your family from parasites is to keep your pets on monthly preventatives and have samples of their stool checked with a TCAP fecal test at least once a year.