Intestinal Parasites

Symptoms of intestinal parasites in your pet

Ewwww, let’s talk about something kind of yucky… intestinal parasites. Not a fun or romantic topic, but very important to the health and well being of us kanine kids and our furry feline friends! Those darn internal parasites love being here at the beach as much as we do. What’s with that??

The most common “worms” seen in our area are roundworms and tapeworms. We also see occasional hookworms and whipworms. Other internal parasites are single cell organisms and include coccidia and giardia. Most of these parasites can affect our human pack mates also, so pay attention! In this kolumn I will tell you about the worms, next time I will inform you about the other internal parasites.

Roundworms are the worms most little puppies and kittens have. The adult worms are long and have round bodies. We dogs can get them even before we are born while we are in our mommy’s tummies. Kittens can not get them this way. But we both can get them when we are nursing all that yummy milk from our mommy’s milk bar! The worm larva migrate, or travel, through our system then end up in our own tummies or intestines. There the nasty little things steal our nutrition and cause us to be potty bellied and unthrifty. The worms lay lots of eggs that are passed through our intestinal tracts and pass in our poop into the environment. Dogs and cats can also become infected with these dastardly parasites by the fecal/oral route. Goodness, what does that mean?? It means we eat them! Not the actual worm, but the eggs left in the environment. These microscopic eggs are on the grass that we like to eat, or the poop we like to eat (I know, you humans are disgusted by this, but don’t knock it until…) or even when we get some on our paws and groom ourselves! How can we be diagnosed with having the worms? Often our pet doctors will have our human parents bring in a fecal sample (yep, that is some of our poop) to be checked microscopically for the eggs. These are waaaay too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Tapeworms are also very common and seen in dogs and cats of all ages. These are a long, segmented worm that attaches itself inside our intestines. Our human family usually sees these icky little things stuck on our bottoms or on our poop (or on the bed blankets!) and they look like little grains of dried rice or sesame seeds. It really grosses out our people! Believe it or not, those bits that are seen are not the actual worm, but only an egg packet! The rest of the worm is still attached inside our intestines! We get infected with these worms by eating a flea (we know fleas also LOVE the beach) or eating a critter that has tapeworms (those cats that hunt and eat their prize or let us pups eat it for them).

How do we get free of these horrid parasites? Regular deworming from our animal doctors! At a minimum, since these parasites are so common, we ought to be dewormed at least once yearly. If we are at high risk (such as a cat that is a great and mighty hunter or a dog that likes to eat poop from domestic and wild animals) every six months is recommended. There are monthly heartworm preventions that also control intestinal worms (and some also control fleas) in a yummy treat that can be given to us canines. Unfortunately the deworming medications that can be bought “over the counter” at stores are usually not strong enough to kill the worms.

Well, I have written too many words already, Mr. Editor will probably have to cut this down a bit, so next time I will tell you about the other parasites, how to diagnose and treat them AND how humans can become infected! So join me next time for more great information.

Waggingly yours, Karoo

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