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Vet Tech Rounds: Worms And Parasites in Cats and Dogs

Posted 2020-10-14

Vet Tech Holly with her Dog

There are many different parasites that our pets are predisposed to in the environment. All cases of intestinal parasites should be treated and diagnosed by a veterinarian. Worms and parasites in cats and dogs can become profoundly serious and often fatal if not treated. Worms and parasites feed off the tissue in the GI tract. These parasites will eventually keep on multiplying when left without any intervention. If these parasites continue to grow, they will continue to feed, causing dogs and cats to slowly deteriorate.

There are some signs to look out for when it comes to diagnosing a worm burden. We have also added a description of some of the most common worms and parasites in cats and dogs.

Roundworms

Roundworms can infect both dogs and cats. They are commonly ingested through the soil and fecal matter that is contaminated by eggs and larvae. Roundworms can also be ingested when pets eat other infected animals such as rats, birds, and insects. The eggs of these worms can be found by examining the feces under a microscope. The problem with Roundworms is that as adults, they can travel to the lungs and cause further issues. They live in the small intestine, where they will grow and multiply and they will eventually cause an intestinal blockage. Unfortunately, Roundworms can be transmitted to people.

worms and parasites in pets

Hookworms

Hookworms can also affect both kitties and pups. They can be ingested but can also infect pets by penetrating the skin and through the paws. Like Roundworms, hookworms can be transmitted to the offspring through nursing and pregnancy. Hookworms are found by microscopic examination of the feces. These parasites will attach themselves to the lining of the intestine and survive by feeding on the hosts’ blood. Hookworms can cause severe anemia and if left untreated, they can cause collapse and death. Pets that have been infected with this worm will show symptoms such as weight loss, runny stools, and bloody stools. They can also be transmitted to people and have been known to cause a skin disorder called cutaneous larval migrants.

Whipworms

Whipworms are small and thin worms. They stay in the large intestines and cecum of dogs (rarely found in cats). They are transmitted by the ingestion of the eggs. The eggs can be in contaminated soil and feces. These worms are not as common as others but can live for up to 7 years in the soil. It can be difficult to test the feces for whipworms as they shed in low amounts and may not be found in the first microscopic examination. They will also cause diarrhea, weight loss, and bloody stools. Whipworms may also cause rectal bleeding which can cause further fatal problems in pets.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are much larger and flatter than most worms. This makes them a lot easier to notice in the stools. Both dogs and cats can be infected. Tapeworms can be ingested when cats/dogs eat smaller rodents or rabbits. They are transmitted by the fleas, as they carry the infective larvae. The tapeworm attaches itself to the small intestine lining. Tapeworms in general will not cause any serious problems for your pet but can cause some tummy upset. They are detected generally by examining the feces and they can sometimes be seen around the anus. Tapeworms cannot be passed from pets to people.

worms-and-parasites-in-pets-tapeworm

Giardia

Giardia can be quite common in our pets especially if they enjoy eating things they should not when outdoors. Giardia is not quite a bacterium but rather similar. It is referred to as protozoa. Protozoa’s are organisms that are considered to be a parasite that will multiply and this is what can cause serious infections in the body. Giardia lives in the small intestine of cats and dogs. Giardia can also affect people if ingested through food and water. Symptoms of Giardia include diarrhea, a mucous-like substance in the stools, weight loss, lethargy, dehydration, and they may lose their appetite.  Your vet will generally prescribe a certain antibiotic to treat the problem, but giardia can be persistent and very contagious. It is advised to wash your pet, especially if your dog or cat is licking. Ensure that litterboxes, beds, etc. are cleaned using a disinfectant.

Symptoms of Worms

The most common signs of a worm burden:

  • Weight loss
  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Lethargic
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Dull looking coat
  • Dragging hindquarters along the ground

Treatments

Mothers may also pass worms on to their puppies, so it is important they are treated before the birth of their puppies. If the mother is not dewormed, it is common for their puppies to be born with worms. Because of this, puppies should be dewormed early and regularly, most often at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. Once your puppy reaches 12 weeks, you can continue to treat your puppy every three months with an effective dewormer.

Depending on veterinarians’ guidelines, you should deworm your pet regularly as advised. Especially if there is a suspected worm burden.

If your pet has been diagnosed with a worm burden or is suspected to have worms, it is important to keep all areas your pet uses thoroughly cleaned. This includes the litterbox, bedding, and feeding bowls. You should also wash your pup or kitty.

NHV’s herbal formula, Inulin PK, can also be used to help rid the body of worms and internal parasite infestations. Inulin PK acts as a natural dewormer to help control parasites in dogs and cats. It can help to stop any bleeding while also repairing the internal damage caused by intestinal worms and parasites.


Holly graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Nursing from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland. She also completed a 1-year Animal Care course and worked in a small animal veterinary practice for 3+ years before moving on to working in the equine industry. 

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