The major intestinal parasites of dogs and cats are hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Three of these can potential health hazards to people. Contrary to popular belief (old wives tales, etc.), dogs and cats do not get pinworms.
Hookworms and roundworms both produce microscopic eggs that are passed in the pet’s stools. These eggs hatch into larvae capable of penetrating the skin, then migrating in the body tissues until they become mature intestinal worms. Upon penetration of human skin they can produce disease of the skin and many internal organs including the eyes.
Tapeworms produce segments that resemble grains of rice that pass in the stool and are consumed by the larval stages of fleas. When a pet ingests an adult flea, the tapeworm egg in the flea becomes a mature tapeworm in the intestine. If a person (often a child) accidentally ingests a flea, a tapeworm may partially develop before the person’s natural resistance will reject the parasite.
Whipworms inhabit the lower intestinal tract of dogs and sometimes cats and produce microscopic eggs that are infective for pets but not for people.
All of the intestinal parasites are capable of causing various gastrointestinal diseases, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, intestinal obstruction, anemia and sometimes death. Puppies and kittens as early as two weeks of age are particularly susceptible to the life threatening effects of hookworms and roundworms.
Good hygiene is a very effective preventive and an essential control measure in dealing with these parasites. Daily cleaning of stools in the yard or kennel, and effective control of fleas are good management habits.
A fecal examination by your veterinarian will usually detect these and other parasites so that effective treatment can be given. Many over-the-counter remedies are ineffective, poorly effective, or will only treat one of the potential problems, and could be harmful to your pet. Consult your veterinarian for his advice concerning your pet and intestinal parasites.
Dr. Dan Meakin is the owner of All Creatures Animal Hospital, 1894 Ohio Pike in Amelia. Call (513) 797-PETS.