Usually forgotten, intestinal worms live widely among us and closer than you might believe. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, pet-parents are usually not aware of this fact and their knowledge of the risks of zoonotic transmission is actually quite low. So let’s refresh everyone’s memory and talk about intestinal worms in dogs and cats.
First things first: the best approach
As usual, prevention is the key word. That’s why conducting fecal exams on a regular basis is important not only to protect our buddies, but also ourselves.
The great majority of intestinal worms in dogs and cats have a zoonotic potential. This means they can also affect people, and especially children – who are still learning proper hygiene habits. Additionally, the way we nowadays share the household with dogs and cats – letting them on couches and beds, for example – enhances the chances of transmission and contamination.
Searching for the monster
According to the official guidelines available, fecal examinations in healthy pets should work like this:
- Puppies and kittens: should be tested at least 4 times until the age of 1
- Adult dogs and cats: should be tested at least twice a year
- Test should be performed every time the stool is abnormal
Keep in mind that lifestyle has to be weighed in when considering the most suitable testing schedule. Indoor cats, for example, are less likely to get infected, but that does not mean that preventive measures can be neglected.
These fecal examinations give any vet the means to evaluate compliance with the preventive approaches, to monitor product efficacy and to screen for infections with a broad range of internal parasites.
Roundworms: the most common monster
- They survive in the gut by eating partially digested food;
- There are two main species – Toxocara canis (in dogs) and Toxocara cati (in cats);
- Gut distress (vomits and diarrhea), loss of weight and malnourishment might be signs of disease;
- Adult forms look like spaghetti, and can be seen with the naked eye in the stools or even in a pool of vomit.
Hookworms: the bloodsuckers of the gut
- Ancylostoma tubaeforme (in cats) Ancylostoma caninum (in dogs) are by far the most common species and the most likely to cause disease;
- The adults are white in color and quite small (about 0.5 inches), but still might be visible by the naked eye in fresh stool;
- In kittens and puppies, bloody diarrhea, anemia or even death are a concern.
The best way to control roundworms and hookworms is through regular deworming – at least every 3 months. The good news is that plenty of heartworm preventive treatments cover it all!
Be aware that these parasites might easily infect humans… So I would strongly recommend you think twice before letting your bestie kiss you passionately on the cheek!
Tapeworms (cestodes): fleas’ best friend
- Rather than hand-shaken with the devil, tapeworm parasites have a deal with fleas instead. They infect our pets when an infected flea is ingested (during grooming for example);
- Species like Taenia spp. and Echinococcus spp. are quite common, but Dipylidium caninum takes the spotlight in both dogs and cats;
- Adults are white and made up of countless flat segments packed with eggs (resembling grains of rice). They might be found in the pet’s anus, stuck in the fur under their tail, or even in the animal’s bed;
- As for preventive and treatment measures: flea control and dewormers containing Praziquantel usually do the job;
A curiosity: we’re more likely to get infected by Taenia spp. from eating raw or undercooked pork or beef rather than by our beloved pets.
Whipworms: endurance is their nickname
- In dogs, Trichuris vulpis is the specie to beat, but in cats these worms are usually not a concern;
- Adults are easily killed using Febendazol or Milbemycin oxime (also used to prevent heartworm disease);
- Their eggs can last years in the environment and re-infections are problematic. Having a tidy household and performing regular deworming are then mandatory;
- Fortunately, people are very unlikely to get infected.
It would be nice if everything there is to say about gastrointestinal parasites would end here… But that’s definitely not the case. Looking forward to knowing more about Coccidia or Giardia, perhaps? Stay tuned, then – there’s still plenty of stuff to mention, and we’ll keep digging in to provide you with the most reliable, up-to-date information.
In the meantime, remember – the Findster Care vet team is always enthusiastically available to help!