Introduction: Here's a quick list of the common parasites affecting pets in our country. Some of them can be deadly, some can affect humans, and some just make our pets miserable.
4. Biting Flies. Irritating, and they sometimes lay eggs under the skin that become larvae (bot flies) (cuterebra) (maggots) We discuss flys a little bit on our page about wounds.
5. Lice. Not common anymore. Easily detected and treated.
7. Demodex Mange. Can cause severe dermatitis, genetics are a factor, and not contagious. I've listed this type of mange separately from scabies mange because the treatment is different. We discuss mange on another page
All the above parasites are external parasites and their control is discussed on other pages on this site. The seven parasites listed below are internal parasites. One of the seven internal parasites we worry about is heartworms and we discuss this disease and it's prevention on it's own page. The six remaining parasites are all intestinal worms or protozoa and that's what this page is about. and I've highlighted the four requiring vigilance below.
Internal Parasites of the Blood
9. Heartworms. (Blood) These parasites are microscopic when they enter the body via a mosquito bite, but grow into a spaghetti sized worm that lives in the blood vessels near the heart where they cause significant disease in both cats and dogs. We discuss heartworm prevention on other pages. 10. Tick borne parasites that cause Lymes Disease, ehrlichia, mycoplasma, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. I hope to write about these diseases soon. Ehrlichia is a rising threat and I talk a little about this on our introductory page to parasites
Internal Parasites of the Intestinal Tract
11. Tapeworms belong to a class of worms called cestodes. There are a bunch of different subspecies of tapeworms, but from a practical stand point in pet medicine, it doesn't matter much because we use the same few cestode killing medicines for all of them.
But I mention that tapeworms are cestodes, because round worms, hook worms, and whip worms all belong to a class of worms called nematodes. And this is important because we use a different treatment to control nematodes than we do cestodes.
Tapeworms can occasionally cause severe disease and death but are more often just an irritant to the bowel. But that's reason enough to treat them if seen. Tapeworms can be seen on top of the stool as long segmented worms many inches long, but usually all that is seen are just single segments that look like rice in the stool. Or as these segments are sticky, you can often see little dried, brownish sesame sized segments stuck to the hair near the anus.
(The worms in the picture at the top of the page in a section of dissected intestine are tapeworms)
Tapeworm larvae have to spend part of their life cycle in rodents or fleas so controlling these pests are a big part of keeping your pets free of tapeworms.
Tapeworms have become resistant to over the counter, inexpensive dewormers... to effectively kill tapeworms, you'll need moderately expensive prescription tablets (usually $8-50 depending on the size of your pet.... and for best results this should be repeated)
12. Roundworms are large intestinal nematodes and the most common worm in puppies and kittens. They occasionally cause serious problems in people ...especially children. So it's very important that all puppies and kittens are dewormed several times when young (most commonly at 2 weeks of age and again every month afterwards for several times. Usually your vet does this for at the same time he or she gives the puppy or kitten it's initial vaccines.)
This particular nematode worm is easy and cheap to kill but it's not a one treatment affair. Your pet is constantly exposed to new larvae both from the environment and from microscopic larvae encysted in the muscles from birth. You need to treat your pets multiple times a year. For your convenience, most products sold to control heartworms also control round worms well. Round worms look like a curled up, 5 inch strand of spaghetti.
13. Hookworms are microscopic blood sucking intestinal nematodes and not only can they kill your pet and harm your children, but they are getting resistant to the products claiming to control them. This is why, at least in those parts of the country where hookworms are prevalent, pets need to be dewormed regularly AND have periodic microscopic fecal tests to make sure there are no resistant worms.
I wasn't planning on getting into details, but just so you can picture the potential danger, hook worms (and whip worms which are going to discuss next) bore little holes in the intestinal wall and secrete a heparin like chemical that keeps the little wound from clotting. Then they suck until they are full and then detach themselves leaving a little microscopic hole in the intestine that not only leaks blood out BUT ALLOWS POOP INto the blood stream. Get enough bacteria in your blood stream and you can get very, very sick very quickly.
14. Whipworms are another blood sucking, microscopic nematode of the intestines and everything I wrote about hook worms pretty much goes for whipworms. Except they seem to be a little harder to get rid of from your pens and yards so that your pets keep getting reinfected. And unlike hookworms, they don't pose a threat to your children.
15. Coccidia are little protozoa organisms that cause huge economic loss and animal suffering in poultry and livestock but rarely cause serious disease in pets EXCEPT for chronic debilitating diarrhea in very young puppies and kittens. I've written about coccidia on another page and also about Toxoplasmosis, a specific type of coccidia that causes birth defects in humans on yet another page.
We can treat this coccidiosis when it occurs but we don't have an effective preventive.
16. Giardia is yet another protozoa (sometimes called amoebas) that frequently causes pretty bad gut irritation. This organism is everywhere, there are a zillion different sub species affecting all mammals, and luckily the GI irritation (diarrhea and nausea) that they can cause is usually mild and short lived.
We can treat this disease when it occurs but we don't have an effective preventive. There is a vaccine available for giardia but it hasn't been very successful. (too many strains that are resistant). (It is because of risking "amoebic dysentery" from organisms like giardia that you shouldn't risk drinking water from a creek or lake without first boiling it or otherwise purifying it)
So, What should you do to protect your pet and family?
Well, luckily, we pretty much take care of this for you if you bring your pets to us for regular check ups and you use monthly heartworm prevention:
1. Worm your pet on a regular basis. Pets that go outdoors in the South should ideally be dewormed every 1-3 months. Luckily most monthly heartworm preventives also help control intestinal worms
2. Worm your pet twice a year using a potent dewormer. We use different deworming products each time to counter resistance.
3. Laboratory examination of the stool at least once a year. We usually do this during the midyear wellness exam for dogs.
(I've given up doing routine fecal samples for cats because it's not usually needed for 100% indoor cats and it's too much trouble finding stool samples of outdoor cats)
4. General cleanliness. If your dog lives in confined area it's important to keep the stool picked up at least twice a week to minimize the egg and larvae load in the environment. (this will also keep the fly population at bay) Having lots of stool around your yard is also a health hazard to humans... especially to children sitting on the ground. Both hook worm and round worm larvae can bore into human skin and cause serious disease. Note; strong sunshine does a pretty good job of killing worm larvae, but larvae thrive in damp, shady areas which are sometimes the same places where children like to play when it's hot out.
5. Keep your pet clean, fit, and healthy. Everything is holistic... parasites thrive in filth and overwhelm pets with poor nutrition or immune systems compromised by illness, chronic skin disease, or chronic inflammation.
"What To Expect When You Go To The Vet"
if your pet should have a problem with ...
To include Femoral Head Removal, Hip Dysplasia, Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries, Panosteitis, Radiographic Demonstrations, Disc Disease, and Bone Surgery
Strokes, Vascular Diseases, Anemias, DVT, DIC, Blood Parasites, Rat Poison, & Bleeding disorders
Cardiology Heart disease in Cats, Cardiac Hypertrophy, Valvular disease, Cardiac Insufficiency, Congestive Heart Failure, Heartworm Disease, and a little history about the milestones in treating heart disease Cats: general information page and directory of diseases and problems specific to cats including vaccine recommendations, leukemia, feline viral infections, feline upper respiratory disease and cats that just aren't feeling well. Dermatology: Skin problems including allergies, rashes, bacterial infections, and itching. Hair Loss, Yeast Infections, Hormonal Problems Heart disease; Cardiac diseases, vascular diseases, stroke, & heartworms Hormone Diseases: Diabetes, Thyroid Disease, Cushing's Disease or Hypercortisolism, Addison's disease or Hypocortisolism, Pancreatitis, obesity as a disease Infectious Diseases Colds, Distemper, Parvo, Leptospirosis, Bruceellosis, Panleukopenia, Feline AIDS, Leukemia, Hepatitis, Kennel Cough, Ringworm, Rabies, FIP, Canine Herpes, Toxic Shock Syndrome, & More Intestinal problems: diarrhea, constipation, torsion, indigestion, and gas. Also pancreatitis, vomiting, esophagitis, colitis, parvo and other types of dysentery Metabolic Diseases: Diabetes, Thyroid Disease, Cushing's Disease or Hypercortisolism, Addison's disease or Hypocortisolism, Pancreatitis, obesity as a disease Parasite Problems; Fleas, Ticks, Heartworms, Intestinal Worms, Mosquitos, Lice, Mites, and other welfare recipients Poisons Snakes, Insects, household chemicals, plants, and foods that might poison your pet Skeletal-Muscular Problems Arthritis, Fractures, ACL, Ligament Injuries, Disc Disease, Pannus, and many other problems of the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments Skin Problems: allergies, rashes, bacterial infections, and itching. Hair Loss, Yeast Infections, Hormonal Problems Surgery: Spays, Castrations, Testicle Recipes, Soft Tissue Surgery, Hard Tissue Surgery (Bones), C- Sections, Declawing, Tumor Removal and Cancer Surgery
Other Topics on This Site
Zoonotics: Diseases, worms, and parasites people get from pets.
Includes information about Prescription diets used to treat disease, and a discussion about the pet food industry
Includes information about feline and canine heat or estrus, breeding, C-Sections, pyometra or Infected Uterus, dystocia, no milk, mastitis, & brucellosis
Also newborn care, undescended testicles, and alternative to spaying and castration
WildLife Page: Taking care of baby bunnies, squirrels, and birds. A very funny story about beavers, and other misc information Our Dog Page: a directory of problems of concern in dogs including parvovirus, distemper, canine herpes, and other diseases