Dogs and cats (especially puppies and kittens) are routinely infected with intestinal parasites, sometimes without apparent evidence of the infestation until it is too late. Fortunately, we have effective medications to treat most of these parasites. With the advent of broad spectrum heartworm medications that not only prevent heartworms, but also treat several types of intestinal worms, control of parasites is even much more effective than it used to be! We recommend all dogs and cats in SC remain on one of theses types of products year round.
However, despite responsible and judicial use of these products, one’s pet might still encounter tapeworms and protozoal parasites not covered by typically dispensed antihelmentic products. Tapeworm proglottids can appear as sesame seeds when dessicated and actually crawl around like inchworms when fresh. These proglottids are actually tiny packages of hundreds of eggs. The eggs are often ingested by immature, larval, fleas. When the adult flea bites the animal, the animal will sometimes turn around and eat the flea, thus ingesting the tapeworm eggs, as well! So, along with the direct oral-fecal route of transmission of tapeworms, fleas can alsoi perpetuate a tapeworm infestation, even with the use of effective tapeworm medications. One must control the flea, as well.
Protozoal parasites can occur despite the good husbandry practice of year-round heartworm prevention. Giardia, coccidia and others types of protozoal parasites generally cause diarrhea and discomfort. A fresh fecal exam (collected at the FRAH) is usually successful in identifying these parasites so that effective medications can be prescribed.