Intestinal Parasites         
 
Intestinal parasites common to dogs and cats not only cause disease in our pets but can also be spread to people. Roundworm, hookworm, or Giardia infections in pets can cause weight loss, diarrhea or anemia. In people, infections can result in skin rash, gastrointestinal disease, blindness, or neurological problems. Children are especially vulnerable due to their poor hygiene habits and higher exposure to potentially contaminated environments such as parks and sandboxes. Immunosuppressed individuals are also at risk. Infected animal's feces contain parasite eggs, protozoa or larvae that contaminate dirt, grass, hair of the animal or other objects in their surrounding environment. Parasite eggs are highly resistant to environmental conditions and may persist in the soil for years. Eggs or protozoa are ingested or larvae penetrate bare skin to infect either man or animals. Tapeworm infection occurs in pets when they ingest fleas or rodents.
 
Protect your pet and your family from the risk of infection. We recommend testing your pet for parasites regularly as well as treating and administering preventive medication for parasite control. Reduce environmental contamination by properly disposing of stool daily and covering sandboxes when not in use. Special measures may need to be taken to decontaminate an area. Minimize exposure to potentially contaminated environments and practice good hygiene such as washing hands often after handling stool or petting your animal. Additional information can be found on the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) website, www.parasitesandpets.org. and the CDC website, www.cdc.gov/healthypets/index.htm.
 
Testing your pet for parasites. A stool sample is examined under the microscope to check for the presence of eggs or larvae of common parasites. A blood test can check for Giardia. Depending on patient health, preventive medication and lifestyle factors, the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends conducting a stool exam:
  • 2-4 times during the first year of life in puppies and kittens
  • 1-4 times per year in adult pets
  • Conduct annual heartworm testing on dogs
 
Treating your pet. CAPC recommends:
  • Administer year-round monthly treatment with broad-spectrum heartworm medication that has activity against other parasites that can cause disease in man
  • Administer monthly preventive flea and/or tick products as soon after birth as possible for the life of the pet to kill fleas and ticks and prevent tapeworm infection
  • Deworm puppies at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age, followed by a monthly preventive
  • Deworm kittens at 3, 5, 7, and 9 weeks of age, followed by a monthly preventive
  • Treat nursing dogs and cats along with their offspring
  • Additional deworming medication may be needed depending on your pet's lifestyle such as tapeworm medication every 3-4 months if your pet regularly ingests rodents or fleas
 
Not using a year-round heartworm preventive/intestinal parasite combination increases the risk of parasitism in pets and transmission to man. Additional diagnostic tests and deworming medication are recommended in this situation. CAPC recommendations include:
  • Treat puppies at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age and kittens a 3, 5, 7, and 9 weeks then monthly until the pet is 6 months of age.
  • Treat nursing dogs and cats along with their offspring.
  • Conduct fecal exam 2-4 times a year in adult pets and treat with appropriate deworming medication. Monitor by fecal exam to confirm treatment success.
  • Determine heartworm status yearly in dogs and/or before starting preventive.