Intestinal Parasites

Happy August everyone!  This summer sure did fly by.  Sorry I’ve been lacking with my words of wisdom however I took my own little vacation to another exam room just to get away for a while.  The seclusion was fantastic, though it got rough at meal time on occasion since I wasn’t sprawled out on everyone’s papers emitting sad pleas for food.  It really is hard to be me sometimes.

Mason the cat sleeping in cat bed

Today’s topic is the fascinating world of intestinal parasites. Those two words together just sound really icky and they definitely are exactly that! When your vet recommends having your pet’s stool checked at least once a year, believe me, it’s not because they love poop. Dogs and cats often pick up intestinal parasites outdoors; however, it can happen inside the home too. While keeping cats strictly indoors is a much safer environment, it is possible for them to pick something up without you knowing; hence our recommendation for routine stool checks.
Did you know that there are several intestinal parasites that can be passed on to humans? Children and the elderly are especially susceptible, although children may be more likely to become infected. The biggest problem seems to be with smaller children who do not yet have any concept of good hygiene and do not know any better. Kids are curious and you never know what they may have put their hands in outside or if they walked in anything they shouldn’t have. Your best bet is to make sure that kids, regardless of age (and it would be a good idea for adults too) to wear shoes when outdoors and make sure you are monitoring them! For children who are a bit older, make sure they understand that they should watch where they step outside and of course, everyone should be washing their hands! Cryptosporidium, Giardia, hookworms, and roundworms can be passed on to humans. Treatment for parasites varies and some are easier to combat then others; however none are fun to have so prevention is best! For more information about human symptoms, transmission and treatment, please speak with your doctor.
Giardia, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, coccidia, and whipworms are common intestinal parasites that we test for when we check your pet’s stool. Dogs especially can pick up parasites when out in the yard and on walks, as well as doggy day care and dog parks. Am I saying that you should avoid these places? No, but I am stressing always picking up after your dog, and monitoring where they are playing and of course what they are ingesting. Even drinking water off the sidewalk, street, creeks or even in your own backyard can lead to infection. As for my fellow felines, you are not off the hook either! If a cat ingests a mouse for instance, even if they are in the house, they are susceptible as well. Tapeworms are contracted when an animal ingests an infected flea or flea egg or an infected rodent, and you will often see what looks like little grains of rice around your pet’s rear-end or in stool. Sometimes you may never even see fleas but that doesn’t mean one didn’t sneak in. Keeping your dog and cat on heartworm medication is one of the best ways you can prevent these nasty infections as most of those medications have preventatives for several parasites.
Moral of the story? Keep up good hygiene for both humans and pets (including litter box & yard upkeep), and have your pets stool tested at least once a year.
For once, I think I have lost my appetite after all this intestinal parasite talk so I think a good nap is in order! Til next time…
Meows, Mason