95% of puppies and kittens are born with worms! These internal parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss or failure to grow, and even death. Some kinds are also transmissible to humans. Over 10,000 cases of animal roundworms cause illness in children every year in North America.
Internal parasites are diagnosed by having a fresh stool sample examined under a microscope. This should be done at the first vaccine visit. We then recommend testing on a yearly basis as part of your dog’s annual health exam.
Stool samples should be collected when they are fresh and stored in the refrigerator until they can be brought to the clinic, preferably within 24 hours. DO NOT freeze them. A teaspoon or two is all that is necessary. We also carry ova and parasite containers which you may pick up at the front desk to place your sample in to send off to the lab for processing.
If a stool sample from your puppy is found to be positive for worms, the veterinarian will prescribe an effective wormer. Most parasites require deworming twice, two weeks apart and the dose depends on the weight of your pet. Stool samples should be checked again 4 weeks after the final worming to ensure that your dog is not being reinfected by his or her environment. For prevention of internal parasites, remove fecal material from your yard regularly and dispose of it safely.
So that you may better understand the problems internal parasites may cause, and what signs to look for, have included a short description of the six most common types of intestinal parasites.
Roundworms – Are the most common type of intestinal worm. They are 2 – 6 inches long and resemble strands of spaghetti. They live in the small intestine, and may cause vomiting, diarrhea or weight loss. Larval worms also damage the liver and lungs while migrating through these organs on their way to the small intestine. Roundworms are transmitted via stools or other infected dogs or cats, or through the uterus of the mother dog to her unborn pups. Entire worms can sometimes be seen in the stools or vomit of infested animals.
Hookworms – Are half-inch long worms which attach to the lining of the small intestine, causing blood loss and diarrhea. Puppies can become infected through the mother’s uterus before birth or via her milk after birth. Older animals acquire hookworms through skin contact with the stools of other dogs or cats.
Whipworms – Live in the large intestine. They are not as common as the other intestinal parasites but the disease they cause can be very serious. Bloody or mucoid diarrhea and weight loss are the symptoms seen. These worms are transmitted by ingestion of the stools of infected animals.
Tapeworms – Live in the small intestine where the head attaches to the intestinal wall and produces a chain of segments. Mature segments containing eggs are passed with the stool, or may be seen around the rectum. They resemble small grains of rice. They are acquired by the ingestion of rodents or birds or very commonly through the ingestion of fleas. Flea control is essential to control tapeworm infestation.
Coccidia – Are one celled protozoal parasites, more like bacteria rather than “worms”. Puppies can pick these up from their mother and they can also be acquired by eating rabbit or other wildlife droppings. They are treated with antibiotics.
Giardia – Are also protozoans. They are very difficult to pick up on a regular stool check. Antibiotics or special wormers kill them but they are difficult to eradicate completely and often flare up with stress or other intestinal problems. They are contagious to humans and cause vomiting and diarrhea in both people and pets.
Heartworm – Are deadly parasites carried by mosquitoes. By blood testing your dog each spring and giving preventative medication throughout the mosquito season you can save your dog from needless suffering and death.