Parasites Part 2

Keeping your pet safe from parasites

I’m back, I’m back! I will bet many of you have been waiting for the sequel of this story! Last time I told you about those yucky roundworms and tapeworms. Now it is time for giardia and coccidia.

Giardia (gee-AR-dee-ah) (that is for you humans, we canines can’t say it no matter how hard we try!), is a single celled protozoan parasite the affects the small intestines of humans and pets! This parasite has structures kind of like puppy dog tails that they “whip” (or wag) to move themselves along. Then they attach to the intestinal wall with a suction cup-like structure, damaging the lining of the intestine and stealing our nutrients and vitamins. Clinical signs of infection are watery diarrhea, sometimes yellow and foamy, though usually not bloody. The diarrhea can be mild or severe, acute (sudden onset), chronic (occurring for a long time), or intermittent (comes and goes).

The most common source of infection is contaminated water. This is organism is the reason humans are told to boil and add iodine drops to water if they collect water from streams while camping. Us pups would be told the same thing, but we don’t know how to boil water, so we just drink straight from the stream! Giardia is pretty darn common in our paradise of the Pacific Northwest.

How is this dastardly demon diagnosed? Yep, gotta check that icky poop sample, often several times, to find it. Those darn “whipper-sites” sure seem to know how to evade detection and are harder to diagnose than other intestinal parasites. There are several drugs used to treat Giardia infections. The veterinarian will prescribe treatment for us critters. Your human will have to talk to their people doctor if they suspect their own infection! Because it is highly contagious among people and animals, good hygiene and sanitation are most important. This is especially important in multipet households and shelter (or foster) situations. That means keeping all bedding washed, constant cleaning of the yard and litterboxes (“poop patrol”) and super duper hand washing!

Coccidia (cok-SID-ee-ah) are also single cell parasites which are not visible to the naked eye (or even a “dressed” eye… need a microscope!!). Us dogs and cats can become infected by eating infected soil (we love eating that dirt) or licking our contaminated paws or fur. Once consumed, the coccidia divides inside the cells lining the intestines, causes the cells to rupture leading to intestinal damage and our intestines can not absorb nutrients and vitamins that we need. Bloody, watery diarrhea usually develops and we can even become dehydrated because our body loses more water in its poop than can replace by drinking. Puppies and kittens are most often infected because their immune systems may not yet be strong enough to fight off the parasite.

There are not drugs that kill this parasite, but the medication prevents the parasite from reproducing and allows time for the pet’s immune system to kill the parasite. Good supportive care is very important to help the young critters recover. And, again, households need to be especially careful to practice good hygiene and sanitation. Humans may become infected with a different species of Coccidia than dogs and cats are susceptible to.

Now, how about a review of some important points about internal parasites.

Pet parents: please take us to the animal doctor if we develop diarrhea, lose weight, have a dull coat or you find worms under our tails, in our bedding or on our stool. Don’t forget to take a poop sample along when you take us for our exam.

Remember: prompt treatment and regular deworming lessens our discomfort, decreases the chances of intestinal damage and decreases the chance that the infection will affect our human pack members and other critters.

Most important: Good hygiene and sanitation, especially in multiple animal situations.

I sure hope it was worth the wait to get more of this important information! If you have any questions, contact your pet’s doctor for more info! They want to keep us healthy and happy!

Waggingly yours, Karoo.

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