For your pet’s annual wellness exam (or anytime your pet is having diarrhea), we ask that you bring in a stool sample for us to check. It may seem like a strange request, but here are some reasons why we recommend it:
- Healthy pets may not show signs of having worms.
- Some worms are zoonotic, meaning they can infect people too.
- Treatment of internal parasites lessens a pet’s discomfort and decreases the chances of more serious health problems.
- Treatment of your pet will decrease the spread of infection to both people and other pets.
The most common intestinal parasites that we see in cats and dogs are Roundworms, Hookworms, Whipworms, Tapeworms, Coccidia, and Giardia. There are other parasites, but these are the most common.
Roundworms are the most common parasite in dogs and cats. Puppies can get roundworms from their mothers before they are born or from nursing. Kittens can get round worms from their mother’s milk when nursing. They can also be picked up from the environment, so cleaning up after your pet is important. They can lead to malnutrition and intestinal problems. Roundworms are zoonotic.
Hookworms are also common in dogs. Cats can get them, but it is not very common. They can be passed from a female dog to her nursing puppies or they can be picked up from the environment. Hookworms can cause anemia, weakness, and malnutrition. Hookworms are zoonotic.
Whipworms can be picked up from the environment, too. Cleaning up well after your pets is very important in preventing whipworm infections. Infections can lead to diarrhea, weight loss, and blood loss. They rarely infect humans, but it can happen if they are accidentally eaten.
Dogs and cats are infected with tapeworms either by eating an infected flea or by eating infected rodents. Tapeworms steal nutrients from cats/dogs. Weight loss can occur. Sometimes pets will be seen scooting, but not always. Most of the time, owners will see the tapeworm segments under a pet’s tail or in the pet’s stool. They look like flat grains of rice. Tapeworms are rarely a risk to people, but they can get them.
Coccidia are protozoa (single-cell parasite) and cannot be seen without a microscope. Pets become infected from the environment. Puppies, kittens, and older pets with weak immune systems are the most prone to infections. Coccidia can cause bloody, watery diarrhea. Dehydration and weakness can be secondary problems if the diarrhea is severe. It can be very contagious, so good hygiene and sanitation are very important in households with multiple pets/ litters of puppies/kittens.
Giardia is another single-celled parasite. It is also picked up from the environment. It can cause damage to the intestines and cause problems in absorbing nutrients from your pets’ food. It can cause diarrhea. It is also highly contagious, so sanitation is important. Giardia can be difficult to diagnose and multiple stool samples may need to be checked before it is confirmed.
The best prevention against any intestinal parasite is the practice of good hygiene and sanitation. Annual fecal checks and deworming programs can stop infections from spreading and causing health problems with your pet(s). Prevent children from playing in contaminated soil. Pick up after your pet. Wash hands after being outside in the soil and after contact with pets. If you ever have questions, do not hesitate to speak with your veterinarian about your concerns.