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Monday, June 15, 2020
  By: Kingsdale Animal Hospital  In: Pet Health


Spring, summer and fall are the prime time of year for parasites in Ontario. These parasites include external parasites (fleas and ticks) and internal parasites (heartworm and intestinal worms). Today we go through intestinal worms and some Frequently Asked Questions about them.

What kind of worms are most common in dogs and cats?
Roundworms and hookworms are two of the most commonly seen parasites in dogs and cats and are noted especially in young animals as they are often transmitted while the puppy is developing in utero or when a newborn kitten nurses its mother's milk. We also see cases of coccidia and Giardia as well. Those two are microscopic parasites so you wouldn't see a typical "worm" in the feces!

Where would my dog or cat pick up a parasite?
Parasites can live in the environment for a long time, and some can even withstand freezing temperatures in the winter! Pets can pick up parasites from sniffing and ingesting the microscopic eggs that may be lying in the soil, grass, or dirt. Anywhere that an animal- wild, feral, or domestic, has previously defecated, may harbour intestinal parasites.

If my cat never goes outside , how would it pick up a parasite?
Parasites can be transmitted on the tiniest piece of feces, so an animal doesn't have to necessarily go outdoor to pick something up. Tiny pieces of feces can come in on the bottom of our shoes, articles of clothing, belongings, dirt or soil. Other pets, kids, and even adults can bring in contaminated dirt into the house and not realize it.

Can they be transmissible to people?
Yes, roundworms and hookworms can be transmissible to people. The most common form of transmission is feco-oral and can occur in young children who do not wash their hands properly after playing with animals. There are also cases of cutaneous transmission in addition to oral transmission. People with weakened immune systems including the elderly, young children, cancer patients, HIV-positive, and those on immunosuppressive medication are especially at risk. Other intestinal parasites like Giardia and coccidia are generally species-specific, meaning they generally only infect one species (e.g. dogs), although human-infectious variants of these parasites do exist.

If my dog or cat is having normal bowel movements can they still have worms?
Yes. In some cases it can take a large burden of intestinal parasites to cause clinical signs (vomiting or diarrhea). The best way to determine if your pet has parasites is to submit a fecal (stool) sample for testing.

What do I do if I find a worm in my pet's feces?
Call us and bring the sample in for analysis. We analyze the sample under the microscope to inspect the eggs (often shed at the same time as the worm) and determine what the best deworming treatment would be.

How do I make sure my pet doesn't have worms or transmit them to my family?
The best plan is to have your pet's fecal (stool) sample tested for parasite once a year and deworming accordingly. That's why we always ask you to bring a stool sample with you to your annual physical exam appointment. We also strongly recommend routinely deworming animals, especially those animals who have had parasites before or those animals living with immunocompromised people or families with young children. Most of our Heartworm preventative medication for dogs also covers intestinal parasites which is typically given once a month in the spring, summer, and fall. If you have young children or immunocompromised individuals at home, it is strongly recommended to test your pets (indoor cats included!) for parasites once a year!

Can my bird, rabbit, ferret, or lizard carry worms?
Yes, almost all species can carry intestinal parasites of one type or another. The treatment depends on the clinical signs and the type of parasite involved. If you are concerned please call us to discuss. At your next appointment we will recommend you bring in a stool sample for analysis.

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