Spring has sprung and the heartworm season is soon upon us. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the importance of routine deworming of our pets, including prevention of heartworm.
Gastrointestinal parasites are very common in both dogs and cats. In general there are a few different parasites:
• Protozoa—which are single cell parasites. The most common protozoa that infects dogs and cats are coccidia and giardia. Giardia is commonly found in stagnant water so dogs that are taken to swim in the lakes or drink from ponds are at higher risk of getting infected by giardia.
• Intestinal worms consist on roundworm, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms.
Intestinal worms are most common in puppies and kittens but very commonly infest adult pets as well.
Gastrointestinal parasites affect the animal in a few different ways. Firstly they are located in the animal’s intestine and utilize the food that the animal eats for their own body’s needs and deprive the food from the pet itself. A pet with gastrointestinal parasites will often have diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss or poor weight gain in young animals, listlessness and anorexia. Blood in the stool is also typical for intestinal parasites infestation.
Hookworms are blood suckers, their presence can lead to severe anemia and even acutely kill a puppy or a kitten.
Pets infested with intestinal parasites often have a pot belly appearance. The belly swells because of the excess gas given off by the worms. This gives a noticeable rounded appearance to the belly.
You may notice the worms that are expelled in the feces. Some worms are very large, others are as tiny as a grain of rice.
Another typical sign for presence of intestinal parasites is scooting. Adult worms, eggs and larvae are expelled out of the anus, which can cause intense discomfort for your animal. Your pet may sit on the floor and drag its behind across the ground to scratch it. He may also bite at his rear end repeatedly.
Some intestinal parasites affect pets that will transmit to people as well. Small children are the most at risk for serious problems related to intestinal parasites. Worms often are transmitted from one species to another. If one of your pets has been diagnosed with worms, all of your pets will need treatment as well. Many people are not aware of the fact that tapeworms are transmitted through fleas. The worm grows inside of the flea. Fleas cause itchiness that makes the pet bite itself and swallow the flea and get infested by the tapeworm. A complete deworming treatment should include an anti-flea product as well.
There are different methods for diagnosing the presence of gastrointestinal parasites. The most common method is a microscopic examination of stool sample. Giardia can also be diagnosed by a specific in-house lab test of the stool.
There are different deworming products available for treating and preventing gastrointestinal parasites. If you suspect that your pet might be infested by parasites take it to your vet. The protocols for deworming vary according to the different types of products and also depending whether the deworming is given as prevention or as a treatment for an actual existing infestation. Your vet will recommend to you what is the most appropriate medication to use. In general I recommend to pet owners as prevention to routinely deworm their pet every three to six months.
Heartworm is a serious matter that was discussed on a separate acolumn in the past. In general heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, hence when the weather gets warm the disease spreads. The Okanagan Valley is one of the only areas in Canada that heartworm is found. This is a life threatening condition that can be prevented by monthly administration of one of the heartworm medications. I recommend to my clients to start applying heartworm prevention medication as early as April.
Please consult your veterinarian about more information on deworming and heartworm medication.
Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna, 2476 Westlake Rd.