Parasite Screening & Prevention

Dogs and cats are likely to become infected with parasites at some point in their lives. If left undetected and untreated, they will affect a pet’s well-being – from simply being irritating to causing a variety of life-threatening conditions. Some parasites can even infect and transmit disease to humans, with children being an especially vulnerable target! Parasites don’t discriminate; both indoor and outdoor pets are at risk.

When it comes to parasitic illness, it’s always better to prevent than to treat. That’s why Veterinary Specialists of CT recommends annual testing for intestinal parasites as well as heartworm and tick-borne diseases

Internal Parasite Testing (IPT)

A common mistake is for a client to think that if their pet has normal stools and if no worms are seen, then there are no parasites; however microscopic analysis of your pet’s feces is necessary for an accurate determination. It is for this reason that we ask for a stool sample at your pet’s annual (or semi-annual) visit. Early detection of parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and giardia is vital to successful treatment. Some of the symptoms of parasitic illness include: diarrhea, decreased appetite, poor hair coat, vomiting and weight loss or “pot belly”.  The presence of these symptoms is neither a confirmation nor indication of a parasitic infection. The only way diagnosis can be made is through IPT, and at that point an appropriate treatment or preventive program can be prescribed.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council ( recommends the following IPT schedule:

  •  Puppies and Kittens: 2-4 times/year
  • Adult Dogs and Cats (Not Taking Broad Spectrum Heartworm Preventative Medication): 2-4 times/year
  • Adult Dogs and Cats (Taking Broad Spectrum Heartworm Preventative Medication): 1-2 times/year

What are the symptoms of an Intestinal Parasite Infestation?

Some of the symptoms of parasitic illness include: diarrhea, decreased appetite, poor hair coat, vomiting and weight loss or “pot belly”.  The presence of these symptoms is neither a confirmation nor indication of a parasitic infection. The only way diagnosis can be made is through IPT, and at that point an appropriate treatment or preventive program can be prescribed.

What kind of sample do you need to perform IPT?

To test for intestinal parasites, we require a small (about a tablespoon), fresh, unfrozen sample of stool in a clean container or bag.

What if I have multiple pets and I am not sure which sample goes to each pet?

Don’t fret! We understand that following your pets to the litter box or around the yard to figure out who’s is whose may not be an option.  If you have multiple pets, try to get a sample from multiple spots.  If the test does come back positive, we would recommend treating all the pets in your house hold to reduce the risk of them passing it back and forth to each other.

Can my pet give intestinal parasites to me or members of my family?

Yes.  There are intestinal parasites that humans can get as well including tapeworms and giardia.  The good news is that good hand washing can protect you from becoming infected.  Children are at a higher risk because they spend more time on the ground and tend to put things in their mouths.

How can I prevent myself and my family from getting an intestinal parasite?  

Intestinal parasites are fecal-oral transmitted.  Meaning you would have to ingest your pet’s feces in order to become infected.  Good hand washing practices are the easiest way to protect yourself.  If your pet is experiencing any diarrhea or loose stools, keeping their hind end clean of any feces is a good idea to prevent them from re-infecting themselves or other pets in the house.  Keeping their bedding clean can also help keep a re-infestation rate low.

How can I prevent other pets in my household from getting infected?

Using a monthly preventative such as Heartgard can help prevent infestations as it contains a deworming component as well.  However, they do not cover all intestinal parasites.  Other ways to prevent an infection are removing all stool from the yard on a regular basis, keeping your pets hind end clean of any feces and doing regular testing especially if your dog goes to doggie day care or dog parks.

What is the treatment for intestinal parasites?

There are several forms of treatment for intestinal parasites.  They can come in powders, pills or liquids. Treatment usually last 5-7 days and in some cases needs to be repeated in 1 month and 3 months in order to kill the entire lifecycle of the parasite.


Heartworm & Tick-borne Disease Testing

Dogs (and cats) of any age or breed are susceptible to heartworm infection. Heartworm disease is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito infected by a parasite (Dirofilaria immtis.) If untreated, heartworms can cause serious heart and lung disease that can lead to death. Improvements in client education have increased client awareness of heartworm and its risks, yet infection rates have remained steady.

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious, potentially deadly disease that affects dogs, cats and ferrets of all ages. It is caused by worms that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels.  The worms can cause lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body possibly resulting in death.

How is Heartworm Disease Transmitted? 

Heartworm Disease is transmitted by mosquitos.  If a mosquito bites an infected animal, the blood that they ingest carries baby worms called microfilaria.  When this mosquito bites another animal it can deposit those microfilaria into their skin.  After 6 months the microfilaria mature into adult worms.  Heartworms can live 5-7 years in dogs and 2-3 years in cats if left untreated.

How is Heartworm Disease Prevented?

We offer several different monthly preventatives including Heartgard and Revolution.  These preventatives work by killing off the tissue larval stages of heartworms therefore preventing the growth of mature heartworms.  It is critical that you give these medications monthly.  If you miss doses, your pet is at a higher risk for infection.

How do you test for Heartworms?

Heartworm disease can be diagnosed through a simple blood test that is run in our office.  The 4DX Snap test is able to give us a positive or negative result in dogs within about 10 minutes.  If your pet were to have a positive Snap test, we will likely recommend sending more blood to an outside lab for further testing.

How often do you test for Heartworm Disease?

Because it takes 6 months for heartworms to mature we recommend first testing your dog at 6 months of age.  After that, we recommend annual testing.

Can Heartworm Disease be Treated?

Yes Heartworm Disease can be treated.  However, it is an expensive, risky and potentially painful process especially if your pet is exhibiting any signs of infection.

What are the symptoms of Heartworm Disease?

Symptoms don’t usually start to show until the later stages of Heartworm disease.  In this later stage you may notice your dog coughing, having trouble breathing or showing signs of exercise intolerance.

Is my pet more or less at risk based on where I live?

The incidents of Heartworm disease have in past years been mostly seen in the south eastern states of the US.  However, over time this has changed.  We now see an increasing number of cases here in New England.  Click here for a map with the number of cases seen over the past few years.

For more information about Heartworm Disease visit

Tick-Borne Diseases

You may have heard about an increase in the number of Lyme Disease cases in humans over recent years.  The truth is, the same goes for our pets!  Ticks are adaptable parasites that are capable of transmitting a variety of diseases.  One tick can even carry multiple diseases!  This is why regular screening for our pets are crucial.  Many cases of tick-borne diseases go undetected because your pet may not show visible signs.  Diseases spread by ticks like Lyme and Ehrlichiosis, can cause damage to your pet’s joints and internal organs before they start to exhibit any symptoms such as fever or limping.  We recommend at least annual testing in order to detect tick-borne disease as early as possible.

What diseases can my pet get from ticks?

Most people know that ticks transmit Lyme disease, a chronic and debilitating illness, but they also carry bacteria that lead to other acute illnesses, such as anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. Some ticks carry more than one of these diseases, which can lead to co-infection. These diseases vary in severity depending on patient age and overall health, and all are zoonotic, meaning they can infect humans and other non-canine family members.

How do I know if my dog has any of these diseases?

The presence of one or more of these illnesses can be determined by a simple blood test, and we recommend all pets have this test performed on an annual basis. Any detected problems can receive an immediate intervention.

What are the symptoms of tick-borne disease?

It can be difficult to detect tick-borne disease because symptoms may not show up for months or at all.  This is why we recommend yearly testing in order to catch the disease before it causes long term complications. The presence of one or more of these illnesses can be determined by a simple blood test that can be run at our office.  Any detected problems can then receive an immediate intervention.  If your pet exhibits any of the follow signs, it would be best to visit your veterinarian.

·        Fever

·        Loss of appetite

·        Lameness that can shift from joint to joint

·        Joint swelling

·        Decreased activity

How do you test for tick-borne diseases?

We can test your pet for tick-borne disease with a simple blood test that can be run in our office.  If your pet tests positive we may suggest further bloodwork be sent to one of our outside laboratories.

How do you treat tick-borne disease?

Once a diagnosis has been made and we know which tick-borne disease your pet has, often times a course of antibiotics is all that is needed.  Other forms of therapy may be used to treat any other symptoms your pet may have.

Can I get Lyme Disease from my dog?

Lyme disease is not transferred from pet to pet or from pet to humans.  It can only be transmitted through the bite of an infected tick.  If a tick is present on your pet’s fur after being outdoors, that tick could fall off in your house and become a risk to you and your family.

How do I prevent my pet from getting a tick-borne disease?

There are several things that you can do to help prevent your pets from being exposed to ticks and tick-borne disease.

·        Use tick preventatives

·        We carry several forms including collars, oral medications and topicals

·        Remove leaf litter, tall grass and brush from your yard and mow often

·        Check your pet daily for ticks

·        Be sure to check areas behind the ears, in armpits, between toes and under the tail where ticks can hide

·        Remove any ticks that you do find immediately!

·        Don’t know how to remove a tick?  Click HERE  or feel free to come by our office for us to show you!