Internal and External Worms and Parasites in Pets
Dogs and cats are susceptible to worms and parasites throughout the course of their lives. Puppies and kittens can become infected with intestinal parasites before they are born or later through their mother’s milk. Pets can also pick up parasites from exposure to the waste of other animals, flea ingestion, or mosquito bites. The good news is that worms can be prevented, and even heartworm, which is one of the most fatal parasites for pets, can be treated if caught early.
Animal Medical Care has developed a protocol to prevent and treat parasites with your pet’s best interest in mind. To help us, we ask that you bring in a stool sample to your first and annual visits for microscopic examination, watch for evidence of tapeworms, and remember to give your pet flea and tick and heartworm preventative.
Puppies and Kittens
Because worms are so common in puppies and kittens, Animal Medical Care recommends that all pets—even if there is no evidence of worms—be given a deworming medication on his or her first visit to the vet and then again three weeks later.
The medication is safe and effective against several common worms and has no side effects. Moreover, worm eggs won’t be passed every time your pet goes to the bathroom, so a fecal examination is important but not always 100% determinative. The second treatment ensures that any worms in the larval stage, when the first treatment was given, will also be killed.
Annual Testing and Year-Round Prevention
To prevent all types of worms, Animal Medical Care recommends the use of Simparica Trio or ProHeart 6. Simparica Trio is a monthly chewable that prevents heartworm disease, kills ticks & fleas, and treats & controls roundworms & hookworms. ProHeart 6 is an injection that provides six months of continuous protection against heartworms and comes with a de-wormer to treat and prevent intestinal parasites. There are also a number of other options available that AMC will be happy to recommend, depending on your pet’s lifestyle and your budget.
To ensure that your pet is not infected—especially with heartworm which may not show symptoms for years—we’ll test your pet annually at his or her well visit. If you suspect that your dog has become infected with any parasites, Animal Medical Care can recommend the best protocol for your pet.
Worms to Be Concerned About
Hookworm and Roundworm
Both of these worms are common in puppies and kittens and can be passed on to animals and even humans through eggs in animal feces that can contaminate dirt and other surfaces. Roundworm, or toxocariasis, is the most common parasite of concern to humans because, in rare cases, it can result in blindness or even swelling of the organs or central nervous system. Hookworms can also cause mild to extreme discomfort in humans.
Tapeworms, transmitted when a dog or cat ingests an infected flea, is one of the most common intestinal parasites in dogs and cats. If your pet is infected with tapeworms, it will pass small segments of the worm, which look like a grain of rice, in its stool.
You may also see segments stuck to the hair under the tail of your dog or cat. Tapeworm segments do not pass every day but can occur in as little as two weeks after flea exposure.
Heartworms, transmitted by mosquitos, are a major concern in the Gainesville/Hall County area, especially for dogs. However, cats are also potential hosts for the parasites. Heartworms can cause fatal heart and lung damage and should be taken very seriously. Heartworms are transmitted primarily through mosquitos, which absorb blood infected with the microscopic larvae of heartworm, then bite another animal and transmit the parasite.
Signs of heartworm often do not manifest until the situation is in a very dangerous stage. Symptoms include persistent coughing, fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Because symptoms usually appear late in the process, it is essential that you take steps to prevent heartworm before it develops and test your pet for heartworm yearly.
If your pet does have heartworm disease, Animal Medical Care can take a number of steps to stabilize and administer treatment that will kill the parasite. If caught early enough, there is a high success rate in removing the parasite from dogs and cats.