Pets & Parasites

Parasite control, also known as deworming, is an important way to safeguard not only your pet’s health, but also that of you and your children. Parasites can affect your pet’s ability to absorb nutrients, damage the lining of the intestinal tract, and cause your pet to become very ill. However, what many people do not realize is that some parasites can also infect humans, sometimes with more serious consequences than in pets, so prevention is key.

Will my pet show sypmtoms if he is infected?

Infected pets may show no symptoms, so regular health exams with a fecal check are important. Symptoms of infection may include: change in appetite, coughing, diarrhea, weight loss, and a rough or dry coat.

What are the most common parasites in Oregon?

Fleas:

Though not an internal parasite, fleas are the most common parasite in pets. Unfortunately the mild climate that we humans enjoy here in the northwest also provides year-round habitat for fleas.  There is no “Flea Season”, as fleas can survive throughout the year here. Preventative medication and understanding the flea life cycle are critical in preventing difficult-to-eradicate infestations of your pets and home.

 More on fleas:

Roundworms:

Adult roundworms are an intestinal parasite that resemble strands of spaghetti. They may cause vomiting or diarrhea and their eggs are shed through your pet’s stool. Children are more prone to contract roundworm if they touch infected areas and then put their hands into their mouths. It is best to not let your children play in areas that may be soiled with pet waste and to practice good hygiene. Keep sandboxes covered when not in use, as they are a favorite outdoor restroom for cats. In rare cases, roundworm infection can cause an eye disease that can lead to blindness; infections can be more serious in children than adults. Gardeners should wear gloves and practice good hygiene after working in the garden. For more detailed information select the following links- roundworm in cats and roundworm in dogs.

Children are more prone to contract roundworm than adults, so if you have children at home, have your pets dewormed regularly to prevent transmission. In rare cases, roundworm infection can cause permanent partial blindness.

Tapeworms:

Your pet can contract tapeworms from eating fleas that can harbor the tapeworm in its larval stage or from eating an infected rodent. Segments of the tapeworm resembling bits of rice are often shed in the feces or found clinging to the hair near the rectum. For more detailed information, select the following links- tapeworms in cats and tapeworms in dogs.

Hookworms & Whipworms:

Hookworms attach themselves to your pet’s intestinal lining, and can cause dark feces or bloody diarrhea. Whipworms, found in the large intestine, can cause diarrhea also. If you notice blood in your pet’s stool, contact your veterinarian. For more detailed information, select the following links- hookworms in cats and hookworms or whipworms in dogs.

Heartworms:

Although less common than other worms, heartworm disease is a serious, life-threatening infection of the heart caused by the adult stage of the parasite Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm is present in Oregon, even in the metropolitan areas. Mosquitoes are the carriers of heartworm disease. As a part of a regular health exam, your veterinarian may recommend testing and preventative medication for heartworm. Many heartworm preventatives also protect your pet against other types of worms. For more detailed information, select the following links- heartworms in cats and heartworms in dogs.

More on Heartworm Disease:

What do I do if I think my pet may be infected?

Different parasites will require different treatments, so proper identification is key. Typically, your veterinarian will ask you to provide a stool sample to test for internal parasites. For any pet you suspect may be infected, collect a fresh fecal sample within a few hours prior to testing. You may also want to collect any eggs you may see on your pet’s hair. Keep the sample cool or refrigerated. Your veterinarian will examine the sample to identify the parasite and prescribe the proper medication to treat your pet. Kittens and puppies are commonly infected with parasites and should be tested as part of their early life care, which includes examinations and vaccinations. Sometimes, more than one fecal test will be required to ensure that the parasites have been eliminated.

How do I prevent parasites?

Testing:

A routine fecal check is recommended every 6-12 months as part of your pet’s preventative health care.

Preventative Medication:

Fortunately there are many different, easily administered, preventative medications available- your veterinarian will help you decide if this medication is appropriate for your pet and which product is best for your family.

Hygiene:

To prevent re-infection, it’s best to keep your pet away from other pets’ waste and dispose of your pet’s own waste quickly. Wash your hands after playing with your pet. As with any health concern involving your pet, be sure to consult with your veterinarian if you think your pet may be infected with parasites.

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