There are several types of internal parasites that cause problems in dogs and cats. A comprehensive parasite preventative program can prevent a majority of these parasites. Please speak with the staff at Timbercreek Animal Hospital about which protocol is right for your pet's environment.
What causes heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a major life-threatening problem. Heartworm disease is considered to be one of the most serious conditions seen in small animal practice.
The disease is not spread directly from dog to dog. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease. The female mosquito bites the infected dog and ingests the microfilariae (immature heartworms) during a blood meal. The microfilariae develop further for 10 to 30 days in the mosquito and then enter the mouthparts of the mosquito. The microfilariae are now called infective larvae because at this stage of development, they will grow to adulthood when they enter a dog. The mosquito bites the animal, then when fully developed, the infective larvae enter the bloodstream and move to the heart and adjacent vessels where they grow to maturity in two to three months and start reproducing, thereby completing the full life cycle.
What do heartworms do to the dog?
Adult heartworms: Adult heartworms cause disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels leading from the heart. They interfere with the valve action in the heart. By clogging the main blood vessel, the blood supply to other organs of the body is reduced, particularly blood flow to the lungs, liver and kidneys, leading to malfunction of these organs.
Microfilariae: (Young heartworms): Microfilariae circulate throughout the body but remain primarily in the small blood vessels. Because they are as wide as the small vessels, they may block blood flow in these vessels. The body cells being supplied by these vessels are deprived of the nutrients and oxygen normally supplied by the blood. The lungs and liver are primarily affected.
How is heartworm infection diagnosed?
In most cases, diagnosis of heartworm disease can be made by a blood test that can be run in the veterinary hospital or by a veterinary laboratory. Further diagnostic procedures are essential to determine if the dog can tolerate heartworm treatment.
Can heartworm disease be treated?
Yes, but we recommend a comprehensive parasite prevention program so your pet never becomes infected. Heartworm preventions are very inexpensive and also protect against a majority of the gastrointestinal parasites depending on which product we choose for your pet.
Can my cat get heartworm disease?
Yes, however the incidence of feline heartworm disease is less than that of dogs, but it is often life threatening. Single worm infections can cause severe heart and lung disease in cats and diagnosis is difficult due to low worm burdens. Once again a comprehensive parasite prevention program is effective in preventing heartworm disease in cats. Please speak to the staff at Timbercreek Animal Hospital about which products are right for your pet's environment.
Hookworms are parasites that get their name from the hook-like mouthparts they use to attach to the intestinal wall. They are so small that it is very difficult to see them with the naked eye. Despite their small size, they ingest large amounts of blood from the tiny vessels in the intestinal wall. A large number of hookworms can cause anemia. This problem is most common in puppies and kittens but can occur in adult dogs and cats.
How did my pet get hookworms?
Young pets may become infected with hookworms by four routes: Orally, through the skin, through the mother's placenta before birth, and through the mother's milk.
What kinds of problems do hookworms cause?
The most significant problems appear related to intestinal distress and anemia. Blood loss results from the parasites ingesting blood from intestinal capillaries. Pale gums, diarrhea, or weakness are common signs of anemia. Some pets experience significant weight loss, bloody diarrhea, or failure to grow properly with hookworm infection.
How is hookworm infection diagnosed?
Hookworms are diagnosed with a microscopic examination of a stool sample. Since there are many eggs produced daily, they are easily detected. One adult female hookworm may produce as many as 20,000 eggs a day! In puppies and kittens, large numbers of worms usually must be present before eggs are shed into the stool. For this reason, fecal examination may be less reliable in very young puppies and kittens than in adult dogs and cats. This is why ALL puppies and kittens should be dewormed regardless of the fecal exam results.
Are hookworms infectious to people?
Adult hookworms do not infect humans; however, the larvae can burrow into human skin. This causes itching, commonly called “ground itch”, but the worms do not mature into adults. Direct contact of human skin to moist, hookworm-infested soil is required. Fortunately, this does not occur often if normal hygiene practices are observed. In rare instances, the hookworm will penetrate into deeper tissues and partially mature in the human intestine. A few reports of hookworm enterocolitis (small and large intestinal inflammation) have occurred in the recent past. A comprehensive parasite prevention program can greatly reduce human exposure and is extremely inexpensive to implicate.
Roundworms are intestinal parasites that live freely in the intestine, feeding off of partially digested intestinal contents. Their name is derived from their tubular or “round” shape.
How did my pet get roundworms?
Microscopic eggs are passed from infected animals in the feces. Roundworms can be transmitted orally, through the mother's placenta before birth, and through the mother's milk.
Are roundworms a threat to my pet?
Roundworms are most threatening to puppies and kittens.
The most common consequence of roundworms is growth reduction.
Since roundworms feed off of partially digested food, they rob the growing pets of vital nutrients. These pets often have a characteristic
“pot-belly” that is due to the growing roundworms inside the pet's abdomen.
Is it true that children can get roundworm infections?
If people swallow the infected eggs of roundworms, the larvae can invade the tissues and become encysted in various organs. Humans act like any other paratenic host. If a large number of infected eggs are ingested, clinical disease may become apparent. This is particularly important if children are infected with roundworms.
Very rarely, liver problems may result from roundworm larval migration (visceral larval migrans). Even less commonly, the larvae can migrate into the eye and cause blindness (ocular larval migrans).
Whipworms are intestinal parasites, which are about 1/4 inch (6 mm) long. They live in the cecum and colon of animals where they cause severe irritation to the lining of those organs. This results in watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and general debilitation. They are one of the most pathogenic worms found in dogs.
How did my dog get whipworms?
Whipworms pass microscopic eggs in the stool. The eggs are very resistant to drying and heat, so they can remain viable in the dog's environment for years. They mature and are able to reinfect the dog in 10-60 days. The eggs are swallowed and return to the lower intestinal tract to complete the life cycle.
How is whipworm infection diagnosed?
Whipworms are diagnosed by finding eggs with a microscopic examination of the stool. However, multiple stool samples are often required because these parasites pass small numbers of eggs on an irregular basis. Any dog with chronic diarrhea can be reasonably suspected to have whipworms, regardless of several negative stool examinations. It is an accepted practice to treat chronic diarrhea by administering a whipworm dewormer. Response to treatment is an indication that whipworms were present but could not be detected on fecal examination.
Can I get whipworms from my pet?
No. Whipworms are not infectious to people. They are exclusive parasites of the dog.
Giardia is sometimes confused with “worms” because they invade the gastrointestinal tract and can cause diarrhea. Giardia is a one-celled parasitic species classified as protozoa.
In young animals and debilitated adult animals, they may cause severe, watery diarrhea that may be fatal.
How did my pet get Giardia?
A pet becomes infected with Giardia when it swallows the cyst stage of the parasite. Once inside the pet's intestine, the cyst goes through several stages of maturation. Eventually, the pet passes infective cysts in the stool. These cysts lie in the environment and can infect other pets. Giardia may also be transmitted through drinking infected water.
How is giardiasis diagnosed?
Giardiasis or infection with Giardia spp. is diagnosed by performing a microscopic examination of a stool sample. The cysts are quite small and usually require a special floatation medium for detection, so they are not normally found on routine fecal examinations. Tests are available for detection of antigens (cell proteins) of Giardia in the blood or feces. These tests are more accurate when combined with a fecal examination.
Can humans become infected with Giardia?
Giardia can cause diarrhea in humans. If your pet is diagnosed with giardiasis, environmental disinfection is important. We recommend thoroughly cleaning the pet's living and sleeping areas and then allowing the areas to dry out for several days before reintroducing pets.
Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by one-celled organisms (protozoa) called coccidian.
How did my pet become infected with coccidia?
Oocysts (immature coccidia) are passed in the feces of an infected pet. These oocysts are very resistant to environmental conditions and can survive for some time on the ground.
What kinds of problems are caused by coccidiosis?
In young animals and debilitated adult animals, coccidiosis
may cause severe watery diarrhea, dehydration,
abdominal distress, and vomiting. In severe cases,
death may occur.
How is coccidiosis diagnosed?
Coccidiosis is diagnosed by performing a microscopic examination of a stool sample. Since the oocysts are much smaller than the eggs of intestinal worms, a careful fecal evaluation must be made.
Tapeworms are flattened intestinal worms that are made up of many small segments, each about ¼ - ½ inch (3-5 mm) long. Unlike roundworms that live freely in the intestinal tract, tapeworms attach to the wall of the small intestine by hook-like mouthparts. These segments are passed in the feces when the animal defecates and look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds. Occasionally they can be seen moving on the hairs around the anus or on freshly passed feces. As the tapeworm segment dries, it becomes a golden color and the fertilized eggs are released into the environment.
How do pets get tapeworms?
When the infected eggs are released into the environment, they have to be swallowed by immature flea larvae in the environment. Once inside the larval stage of the flea, the tapeworm egg continues to develop into an infective tapeworm as the flea matures into an adult flea. During grooming or in response to a flea's bite, the animal can ingest the flea carrying the infective tapeworm and the life cycle is completed.
How is diagnosis made?
Observing the white mobile tapeworm segments in the feces or crawling around the anus usually makes clinical diagnosis. Tapeworm segments are only passed intermittently and therefore are often not diagnosed on routine fecal examination. If you find any segments, white or golden color, bring these to us for a definitive diagnosis.
Can I get tapeworms from my pet?
Contracting tapeworms from your pet is not common or likely. Dipylidium caninum, the most common tapeworm of the dog, depends on the flea as the intermediate host. A person must swallow an infected flea to become infected. A few cases of tapeworm infection have been reported in children. Vigorous flea control will also eliminate any risk of children in the environment becoming infected.