If you’re currently eating a rice dish or are about to indulge in some spaghetti noodles, perhaps you’d better read this a bit later. Why? Because we’re about to dive into the yucky world of canine and feline intestinal worms. The most common groups of intestinal worms which threaten our pets are roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. These worms obtain shelter while living in your pet’s GI tract and also receive a free meal by consuming nutrients or blood in your pet’s intestines. Most of these parasitic worms are transmitted from either your pet’s mother, by ingesting particles contaminated with fecal material from other infected dogs or cats, or from certain wild animal hosts. Not only can these parasites cause abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and chronic diarrhea, but heavy infestations may cause anemia (low red blood cells), malnutrition and low blood protein levels, and even death in young puppies and kittens as well as debilitated adult animals. Certain intestinal worms also pose health risks to humans, and are especially worrisome in young children, the elderly, and individuals with impaired immune systems. Therefore, promptly treating and preventing intestinal worms is vital to your pet’s health as well as your own.
Adult roundworms (most commonly, the species Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina) resemble thin spaghetti noodles and can be seen in your pet’s stools and occasionally in vomit; they feed on nutrients from your pet’s digested food. Hookworms (such as Ancyclostoma caninum and Uncinaria stenocephala) are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Hookworms can quickly cause anemia by chewing on the lining of your pet’s intestinal tract in order to feast on blood. Roundworm and hookworm infections can also cause abdominal distension in your pet (i.e. a “wormy” appearance), caused by fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity secondary to low blood protein. Tapeworms (such as Taenia pisiformis) may break off into small segments (or proglottids), which resemble small grains of rice seen in your pet’s stool. Tapeworms are most commonly transmitted by swallowing infected fleas – another excellent reason to prevent flea outbreaks in your pet! Tapeworms can cause loose stools and may trigger your pet to scoot his or her rump on the carpet due to discomfort. Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis), which cause watery diarrhea and electrolyte imbalances, are not typically visible in your pet’s stool. Proper diagnosis of GI parasites and their eggs is performed by your veterinarian via microscopic examination of your dog or cat’s stool following a fecal floatation test. If your pet has evidence of intestinal worms, your vet will prescribe an appropriate dewormer medication or direct you to an over-the-counter option.
Reduce your pet’s chances of parasitic spread and retransmission by regularly cleaning your cat’s litterbox and picking up after your dog around your neighborhood as well as your own yard. Protect your own health as well as that of your family’s by ensuring that everyone in your household thoroughly washes his or her hands after handling pets. Pro·Sense® is also here to help with their convenient line of over-the-counter dewormer products! Pro·Sense® Dewormer Solutions Roundworm Treatment for Cats (piperazine) is an oral liquid effective against roundworms and is intended for cats and kittens 6 weeks of age and up. This product may be given by mouth directly or else mixed in food. Pro·Sense® Dewormer Solutions Roundworm Treatment for Dogs is a similar roundworm treatment option for dogs and puppies 6 weeks of age and older. Battling several types of GI worms? Pro·Sense® Dewormer Solutions Safe-Guard® 3 Day Treatment for Dogs (fenbendazole) is effective against roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms and is for dogs 10 pounds and up, including weaned puppies over 6-8 weeks old. This product contains oral granules to be mixed in a small amount of moistened food; it is packaged in either 1 gram or 4 gram pouch sizes to more easily dose your dog based upon weight. When used as directed, these products can help control common intestinal worms in your pet. Additionally, your pet’s heartworm preventative may also help control certain types of GI worms as well as heartworms. Ask your vet which product is right for your dog or cat. (You may now resume your rice or spaghetti meal in peace.)
- Maranda Elswick, DVM – The Meowing Vet, LLC (www.themeowingvet.com)
Dr. Elswick was compensated by Pro·Sense® brand for writing this blog post.