Your pet is not only your best friend, but a very valuable member of your family. We all want the best for our loved ones, so it’s important to always keep them as healthy as possible. For dogs and cats, it’s not uncommon for them to get infected with either an internal or external parasite at some point in their lives.
These undesirable parasites can potentially affect your pet in a number of ways ranging from small irritation to causing fatal conditions if left untreated. Certain parasites are also zoonotic, meaning they can even infect your human family members as well!
Below, we’ll examine some of the more prevalent parasites found in cats and dogs.
These nasty parasites can grow to up to six inches in a pet’s intestines and are usually transferred when an animal (via the fecal-oral route) ingests fleas infested with tapeworm eggs. Since infection usually occurs by swallowing a tapeworm egg, tapeworms are generally not transferred to humans—however when a person does get infected, it can be most often seen in young children. Symptoms of a tapeworm infestation include increased appetite with no weight gain and a distended abdomen.
Whipworms are usually found more in dogs than cats. They live in a pet’s large intestine, and don’t shed as many eggs than other intestinal parasites, making it more difficult for them to be detected from a stool sample. These parasites are commonly found in dogs confined to kennels or shelter dogs—infected dogs often don’t show symptoms, however animals with severe infestations may suffer from diarrhea, mucus-coated stools and chronic weight loss. There is a minimal risk for humans to contract whipworm from their pets.
Found in both dogs and cats, roundworms infect the intestinal tract of pets, and kittens and puppies are usually actually born with roundworm larvae already in their system. These parasites are transferred through contact with infected feces and a nursing mother’s milk. If your pet is infected with roundworms, they will have a pot-bellied appearance and these parasites can often be seen in an infected pet’s stools or vomit. Additional symptoms include diarrhea and stunted growth in young animals. Roundworms can be passed to people via skin contact from infected feces or soil, and they can migrate beyond the skin of humans and cause damage to the eyes, liver and central nervous system.
These thin, small worms suck on an animal’s blood by attaching themselves to the wall of the small intestine. More commonly found in canines than felines, dogs can get hookworms through a variety of different ways including while they’re in the womb, from the mother’s milk, through contact with contaminated feces or by ingesting hookworm eggs. Symptoms of hookworm infection can include fatigue, reluctance to exercise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, blood in the feces, weakness and weight loss. These parasites can also infect the lungs and cause fever, cough and pneumonia-like symptoms. Humans can get infected with hookworm through exposure to stools or surfaces where infective larvae are present.
Giardia, a single-celled protozoan, lives in the intestine while the inactive form can live outside of a host in a hard shell (cyst)—pets can contract giardia by ingesting these cysts. Symptoms of giardia include foul-smelling feces, vomiting and diarrhea. Animals more vulnerable to infection include animals living in crowded areas, young animals and those under stress. The risk of a human contracting giardia from a pet is minimal, especially since the pet giardia parasite is different than the one that infects people.
At PAVG, we are always committed to making sure your pet stays happy and healthy. Routine testing and prevention are the best ways to keep your pet (and you) safe from these nasty parasites. If you notice any of the above symptoms or suspect your pet may have been infected with any of the above intestinal parasites, please contact us at our following locations:
Dunlap II: 309-413-0527