Intestinal Parasites in Pets: Protecting Our Furry Loved Ones

A cat in front of a gate

When we think of parasites and pets, fleas, ticks, and heartworm usually come to mind. Indeed, these organisms are the cause of much misery for both animals and people, and it makes sense to keep our pets protected year-round with the use of prescription parasite preventive medications.

Intestinal parasites in pets are also an important cause of disease. Besides making pets sick, many of these organisms can be passed to people. Keeping your family and pets safe requires routine testing and preventive measures, and the team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital can show you how.

Signs of Trouble

Intestinal parasites in pets are much more difficult to detect than other types of parasites. Although some dogs and cats won’t show any signs they are infected, common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Scooting
  • Distended abdomen
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing 
  • Bloody or mucus-covered feces

Malnutrition and anemia can also result from serious infections.

5 Most Common Intestinal Parasites in Pets

The most common intestinal parasites affecting pet dogs and cats are:

  1. Hookworms – Small, thin worms that attach to a pet’s intestinal lining and feed off of blood. Most commonly found in dogs, these worms are passed through contact with contaminated feces or soil, or from mother dogs to their puppies. In severe cases hookworms can migrate to the lungs, causing pneumonia-like symptoms. Humans can contract hookworm through contact with contaminated soil, causing a skin reaction.
  2. Roundworms – Roundworms are common in both dogs and cats, and can be seen with the naked eye in the stool of an infected animal. Roundworms can be passed to humans through contact with infected soil or feces, and can cause damage throughout the body.
  3. Whipworms – Whipworms live in the large intestine of dogs (and sometimes cats) where they cause inflammation, weight loss, and other symptoms. Very commonly found in shelter dogs, whipworms are rarely passed from animal to human.
  4. Tapeworms – Animals can contract tapeworm via contaminated feces, but most commonly through ingestion of fleas infested with tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms live inside the intestines and can grow up to 6 inches in length. Segments of the tail are shed in the feces, and can be seen with the naked eye. Humans can contract tapeworm.
  5. Giardia – Giardia is a single-celled protozoan contracted by drinking contaminated water. Giardia causes severe intestinal distress in pets, including vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. The risk of contracting Giardia from pets is small – the type that affects pets generally does not impact humans.

Prevent and Protect

If you’re feeling a little queasy after reading the above, we have some good news! Intestinal parasites in pets are extremely easy to treat, and even easier to prevent.

Most monthly heartworm medications contain a broad-spectrum dewormer, and controlling fleas will significantly decrease your pet’s chances of contracting tapeworm. Testing your pet’s stool at their annual wellness exam is another important way that we detect and treat intestinal parasites.

So, if your pet isn’t on a year-round parasite prevention plan yet, give us a call. Your veterinarian will be happy to discuss the best plan of action for your pet.