Hookworms The hookworm is one of the most common intestinal parasites found in dogs. Eating eggs from contaminated environments can pass on infection. Puppies can be infected from the mother before they are born. Adult worms live in the dog’s small intestine, where the female worm deposits eggs which are then passed in the feces (stool). Signs of hookworms are anemia, diarrhea, weight loss and a dull, dry haircoat. Illustrating the serious nature of the disease, as few as 50 hookworms can cause a daily blood loss of well over one ounce. In young, weak or malnourished dogs, hookworms can cause sudden collapse and death. Older, more resistant dogs may suffer a slow, progressive wasting disease. Weight loss, diarrhea, tarry or bloody stools should alert you to possible hookworm disease. Microscopic examination of the feces for ova is the only reliable means of diagnosis.
Hookworms can be treated with oral medication. They can easily be prevented by using a heartworm preventative on a monthly basis that also deworms for hookworms. Roundworms Ascarids, or roundworms, are another of the most common intestinal parasite found in dogs and cats, especially in puppies and kittens. The adult worm lives in the intestinal tract and deposits eggs within the intestines where they pass to the outside in the stool. Diagnosis is accomplished by examining a stool sample for roundworm eggs under the microscope. Dogs and cats become infected by eating immature worms from contaminated soil or feces, or by eating infected rodents, birds or some insects. The mother may infect puppies and kittens. Many young animals are born with roundworms. Ingested larvae travel through the body to the intestine and develop into mature worms. There, adult worms begin to deposit eggs in the intestines. The eggs pass with the stool and develop into infected larvae. Symptoms of worms in puppies and kittens are a lack of growth and loss of condition, and they will have a dull coat. Worms may be seen in vomit or in the feces. Generally they are detected through a fecal exam.
Roundworms are easily treated. They can be easily prevented by using a monthly heartworm preventative that also deworms for roundworms. Whipworms The whipworm is a small, fine worm, about 1/4 to 1/2 inches long that lives in the large intestine and cecum. The worm gets its name from the whip like shape of the body. It can be difficult to find the egg on a fecal flotation. Whipworm can cause diarrhea, bloody feces, loss of weight, and general poor health. Occasionally, massive rectal hemorrhages occur. Diagnosis is made by microscopic examination of the feces. Because whipworms are intermittent egg layers, sometimes several samples must be examined before the worm eggs can be found.
Treatment for whipworms is typically by oral products. Following treatment, measures should be followed to control re-infection including sanitation of the areas where pets eliminate and monthly Sentinel, a heartworm preventative that also deworms for whipworms, for all pets in the home. Pets that are not put on Sentinel frequently get re-infected due to the length of time that the whipworm can remain active in the soil of your yard. Tapeworms The tapeworm is a parasitic worm found in the intestines of dogs and cats. The segments may be shed and passed in the feces, leaving the head still attached to produce new segments. Tapeworms are usually not pathogenic (disease causing) but can produce digestive upsets, variation in appetite, poor hair coat and skin, weight loss and vague signs of abdominal discomfort.
Finding the segments in your pet’s feces, or clinging to hair around the anal area confirms the diagnosis of tapeworms. They can also be detected in the bedding where the animal lies. The eggs are not generally found in a microscopic exam of the feces. Segments will be white, about 1/4 inch long, and may expand and contract. Dry segments resemble cucumber seeds, sesame seeds, or rice grains. Tapeworms are not passed directly from pet to pet, but require an intermediate host. Common intermediate hosts are fleas and small rodents. Heartworms Heartworms are a parasitic worm found in the heart of infected dogs and cats. Heartworms are transmitted when an infected mosquito bites the animal releasing larvae into the dog or cats tissue. From there, the larva develops into an immature worm. Once the immature worms become adults they restrict blood flow to the heart and lungs causing serious and potentially fatal problems. In this immediate area, very few heartworm cases have been diagnosed. Recently in Pennsylvania 1 out of every 288 dogs tested positive for heartworms. Compare this to 1 out of 86 dogs nationwide with the south eastern states having the highest prevalence of heartworm disease. (Prevalence maps available here)
Although the incidence of Heartworms is lower in our state than in many others, new reports are showing that the incidence is rising; therefore we recommend heartworm testing and prevention for all pets. If your pet travels outside this immediate area or is exposed to pets that do it is imperative to test before starting prevention and maintaining a monthly prevention regimen. Heartworms can be diagnosed with a simple blood test performed in our hospital. The test we use also screens for three common tick born diseases (lyme, anaplasmosis and ehrlichia).