Prevention the Key to Dealing with Intestinal Parasites

October 23, 2012

Most pet owners are aware that worms can be a serious problem for pets. They also know that worms carry with them the potential to kill pets. This is particularly true in young puppies and kittens but also holds true for adult animals. Since most pets are treated for intestinal parasites early on in their lives, owners assume that worms no longer pose a threat thereafter. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.


The most common type of worm is roundworms. Their significance lies not only in their prevalence but also in their ability to cause serious illness such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing, and death. Roundworms also pose a public health hazard, especially when children accidentally ingest eggs. 


Second on the list of common worms are hookworms. These worms parasitize the digestive tract by ingesting blood. They damage the lining of the intestines, leading to bloody diarrhoea and, in some cases, serious blood loss and death. These also pose a public health risk in that the larval forms can cause a skin rash in humans.


Tapeworms are also quite common in both dogs and cats. They occur when a pet swallows infected fleas or lice. Few pets actually suffer serious ill effects from a tapeworm infection and owner disgust is usually the prime motivator for treatment. Owners tend to diagnose tapeworms when they notice worm segments ("rice particles") around their pet's anus.


A less common type of worm, called whipworm, can infect dogs and, in rare instances, cats. They often cause bloody diarrhoea, leading to dehydration, weight loss and anaemia.


Treatment of intestinal worms is fairly simple and straightforward. Medications currently available are extremely safe and have a wide spectrum, often killing several types of parasites with one single treatment. Most important in the fight against intestinal parasites is having your pet's stools tested annually by your veterinarian. In pets that are at high risk, such as pets that spend a lot of time outdoors, routine treatment with appropriate deworming medication may be a wise alternative that should be discussed with your veterinarian.