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 feces 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 (www.capcvet.org) 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. Clearly, more needs to be done to ensure client compliance for heartworm testing.
Ticks have been around since the time mammals appeared on the earth. However, in the past ten years, the tick population has exploded to significant levels. With this comes increased risk of contact with the literally thousands of tick species in existence today. Our exposure to ticks is greater than ever before not just because there are more of them, but also due to other environmental and cultural factors, including: a rise in the deer population (white-tailed deer in particular); warmer winters; decreased use of insecticides; increased travel throughout the country; and suburbanization, or the migration of people into areas previously inhabited by wildlife.
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.
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.