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Parasites are common in pets, yet many pet owners don’t know much about them, and when we think of parasites, we instinctively think “Ewwww!” In this two-part series, Dr. Ryan from the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America will discuss the most common parasites affecting pets and what you can do to keep your pets safe.
It isn’t always easy to tell if your pet has parasites. Some visible signs might include diarrhea, bloody stool, pale gums, weight loss, or the appearance that your pet has a large belly. But, many pets can have parasites without any symptoms. Your veterinarian may recommend testing for parasites annually, just to be on the safe side. Some of the most common parasites in our pets are whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms.
Whipworms are more common in dogs than cats, but our feline family members can still get these parasites too. Attaching itself to the walls of the large intestine, a whipworm feeds on the hosts’ blood. Even more spine-chilling, whipworms can survive for years in their host or in the soil, food, or water!
Humans can get whipworms, but not the kind that affect our pets. So, if your dog or cat gets whipworms, you don’t have to worry about it spreading to you and your family. You will want to let your veterinarian know if you have other pets at home though.
Roundworms are passed from mom to puppy or kitten. They live in the intestinal tract and can grow up to five inches long! Because the roundworm eggs are in a hard shell, they can survive for years in the soil, potentially reinfecting your pet after treatment. You may see the roundworms in your pet’s stool. They are usually white or light brown and long. They have the appearance of spaghetti.
Humans can get roundworms, especially human children. So, you will want to make sure your pet is treated immediately and speak with your doctor if you suspect you have come in contact with dog feces or soil that is contaminated.
Hookworms also attach themselves to the small intestine and live off blood and tissue. They most often infect puppies but they can also infect adult dogs and cats. While humans can get hookworms, they don’t survive long in our bodies.
The hookworm can suck so much blood that it can be fatal to a puppy or kitten, and young pets can be reinfected by nursing, through the environment, and by internal larvae that mature and lay more eggs. Therefore, your veterinarian will probably recommend deworming your puppy or kitten several times over the course of the first six months. He or she will also discuss a monthly preventative.
While parasites may seem gross, it is easy to treat and prevent most types. But you will want to be sure to get medication from your veterinarian, as over-the-counter dewormers and preventatives tend to not be as effective.
The Animal Medical Center of Mid-America has veterinarians at three locations that can answer questions about your pet’s health. Call 314-951-1534 or click here to request an appointment online.