Internal parasites or "worms" are small organisms that may live in the stomach, intestines and other internal organs of your pet. Even though they may not be easily seen, they may pose a threat to the health of your pet and your family!
One in eight family pets has parasites, many of which can infect and transmit diseases to people.
Your pet may appear to be healthy and still have parasites
You should be concerned if your pet is displaying any of following signs:
- Seem thin or is losing weight?
- Have a dull hair coat?
- Have a change in appetite?
- Appear pot bellied?
- Have diarrhea?
- Drag its rear end on the ground?
- Pass worms in stool or vomit?
Your pet may carry parasites
This poses a threat to human and animal health. Even if your pet does not appear ill, your veterinarian may recommend a fecal test to ensure you are protected. This test includes microscopic examination of your pet's stool in a laboratory. Examination will allow for identification of the parasite because different worms produce different types of eggs.
The most common parasites of companion animals in Canada are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, Giardia and coccidian. These parasites live inside the stomach, intestines, or other organs.
Appropriate treatment will be recommended for specific parasite that your pet is infected with. Most infections can be diagnosed and treated with appropriate medication.
Reduce the risk of infection
Be sure your pet is free from parasites. De-worm puppies and kittens early and repeat every two weeks until they reach 12 weeks of age.
- Have adult pets tested for worms every 6 months to a year depending on geographic area.
- Keep your child away from sandboxes that may be used by animals, and have them wash their hands after playing and before eating.
- Cover your child's sandbox when not in use so animals do not contaminate that.
- Practice good hygiene; wear gloves when you are gardening and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
- Clean up after your pets; scoop your dog's poop and clean your cat's litter box regularly.
- Keep your pet free of fleas, and lice.
Your pet is at a risk if it
- Frequent parks, sandboxes and other areas that animals contaminate with their waste.
- Eats contaminated food containing infective stages of the parasites.
- Has had contact with the domestic or wild-life habitat where parasites are found.
- Has had contact with another infected pet, its fur, bedding or a contaminated environment.
- Has or has had fleas or lice.
You may also be at risk
Most animal parasites can be spread to humans through contact with a pet's feces or contaminated surfaces. Some parasites must be ingested or eaten; others can penetrate through exposed skin. The most common route of infection is when dogs and cats defecate in gardens or sandboxes, and children come in contact when playing, or adults when gardening. Beaches can be another source of infection with skin penetrating worms. Tapeworms are transmitted via fleas, so if your pet has fleas, you could be at risk
Illness in humans is caused when the parasite enters a person's body and causes damage to the skin, eye, brain, lungs and liver. Parasites may also cause diarrhea in people. Pregnant women should be extra careful when handling cat feces as they may be infected with Toxoplasma, a parasite that can affect unborn babies.