FACTS ABOUT INTESTINAL PARASITES
Parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, pinworms, giardia, and trichomonads are common health concerns for our various pets.
The most common pets that people have checked for gastrointestinal (GI) parasites are dogs and cats. But, with the popularity of other pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoises, their potential for GI parasites is of concern too. In fact, on a routine basis, reptiles are the most commonly infected pets that we see with GI parasites.
Furthermore, it is possible for these intestinal parasites to be transmitted to humans and cause us health issues. Zoonosis is the term used for infections and diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. While it is felt to be uncommon, zoonotic parasites are primarily transmitted from a contaminated environment, not from normal contact with your pet.
Your pet may have intestinal parasites if it has been exposed to an environment susceptible to these parasites. Some pets (i.e. dogs and cats) even become exposed from their previously infected mothers prior to birth or during weaning. Initially, you may not observe any signs of illness with your pet. And, while parasites or their eggs may be in your pet’s feces, they typically cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Here are some of the adverse effects intestinal parasites can have on your pet’s health:
- Weight loss.
- Stunted development and growth.
- Damaged internal organs.
- Blood loss and anemia.
- And, if the infection is severe enough, parasites can even lead to death.
Here are some steps you can take to protect your pet and family:
- Bring in a fecal (a.k.a. stool or poop) sample to your veterinary hospital for analysis for GI parasites. The sample will be processed in order to enhance and increase our potential to find parasite eggs under a microscopic viewing. This is usually recommended once or twice a year for dogs and cats; and as many as three to four times a year for reptiles.
- Deworm your pet on a regular basis. We stress year-round preventatives for dogs and cats. (For more information, visit www.petsandparasites.org)
- Practice good personal hygiene. Wash your hands regularly, especially after cleaning up pet feces (stool).
- Clean up feces from your yard on a frequent basis.
- Clean litter boxes frequently and wash your hands afterwards.
- Since tapeworms are transmitted by fleas, keep pets on year-round flea control products. In tick areas, keep your pet on year-round tick control products too. (See our FAQ section #17 for products we recommend.)
- Do not allow children to go barefoot or play in areas where they may be exposed to animal feces.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
- Wear gloves when gardening.
- Do not drink water from streams or other sources that may be contaminated with animal feces.
- Keep pets clean.
We recommend deworming your pet on a regular basis. This will treat many intestinal parasites your pet may have, and reduce the likelihood of further contamination of your pet’s environment. If you have any questions or concerns, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ASK US.