Internal Parasites & Your Pet

worms

Most people don’t routinely consider deworming their adult pet simply because they don’t see worms in the stool. Studies show that up to 33% of dogs may be infected with intestinal worms. While low numbers of worms may not cause any detectable problems in healthy adult dogs puppies, sick pets and older animals may be at risk of significant disease as a result of parasites. More importantly many intestinal parasites seen in our pets can cause health problems in people. Larvae from canine roundworms and hookworms can migrate under the skin of a person into tissues in the body. If these larvae migrate to the eye serious problems – even blindness, can result.  The people most at risk for developing problems are young children, people who are chronically ill and the elderly.  While the number of people who develop problems is low the risk of exposure is quite high. Blood tests done on children in Connecticut showed that up to 27% of them had been exposed to canine roundworm larvae.

Dogs can become infected with worms in a number of ways. Puppies are often infected by larvae that pass into their mothers’ milk. Adult dogs can be infected through contact with the feces of infected dogs.  Many worm eggs and larvae are quite tough and can survive in the soil for months or years.  It is possible for your dog to contract worms by walking through the park, in your back yard, at a kennel or obedience classes. Cats’ can contract worms in similar ways. In addition there are worms cats contract when they eat mice.  Pets may also be infected with worms by eating raw meat or fish.

The best treatment for parasites is prevention. We recommend routine deworming to decrease your pet’s parasite load.  It is difficult to test for the presence of parasites in all but the most heavily infested pets.  This is because adult worms in the intestinal tract will only shed eggs intermittently.  The standard test for intestinal parasites is a fecal exam, which checks for the presence of parasite eggs in the stool. It is quite possible for an animal to have a negative fecal test and still have worms.  Recommendations for worming your pet vary with their age, the risk of exposure and the people in their home.  As a general guideline we have the following deworming recommendations:

Puppies: should be dewormed every 2 weeks until they are 3 months of age starting at 4-6 weeks of age.

Adult dogs in Private homes: Annual deworming

Adult dogs in kennels/dogs who travel to shows: twice yearly or more depending on individual situation.

Pregnant Dogs: deworm before birth or after pups arrive.

Kittens: Should be dewormed every 2 weeks until 3 months of age starting at 6 weeks of age.

Outdoor cats: Once or twice yearly depending on hunting habits

Queens: deworm while pregnant and while nursing.

Indoor only cats: after being dewormed as kittens are not likely to require further deworming, unless being fed raw meat.

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