Does My Pet Have Intestinal Parasites?

This is a common question.  If your dog or cat has diarrhea, is lethargic, has fleas (to name a few signs), we will probably recommend running an intestinal parasite screen.  Since these might be signs of other illnesses, please schedule an exam by calling: 206-932-1133

Conversely, clients are often surprised when they learn their pets, who are not displaying any signs--no diarrhea or lethargy--have intestinal parasites.  Testing is often the only way we can conclusively determine which parasites your pet has.  This is why we always encourage you to bring a fecal sample at every wellness exam.

Monthly flea preventative is important to control intestinal parasite infestations.  

Fleas and ticks transmit several potential illnesses and parasites--some of which are transferable to humans (zoonotic). For example, rickettsiosis and lyme disease can be transmitted by ticks.  Bartonellosis is transmitted between cats by fleas.  Fleas serve as a host for tapeworms. 

There are many intestinal parasites that can infect dogs and cats, and they vary according to the species. However, the most common parasites are:

Common Intestinal Parasites:

Roundworm:  These are the most common internal parasites in dogs and cats.  Adult roundworms look like strands of spaghetti.  They are usually diagnosed with a routine fecal check.  Adult animals may not show any outward signs of disease when infected but sill may pass the infection to other animals and children.

Giardia: Are microscopic parasites that can cause diarrhea, dehydration, and intestinal cramping.  Both dogs and humans become infected through drinking contaminated water.  

Whipworm: Adult whipworms resemble small threads.  Whipworms can cause severe diarrhea in dogs.  They are very difficult to eradicate because the eggs can survive for years in the soil.  Pets infected with whipworms usually require repeated dewormings over a period of several months in order to eliminate the infection.

Tapeworms: Are made up of many small segments that resemble grains of rice.  The segments pass out on the feces and are often found on the hair under the tail.  Fleas transmit tapeworms to other animals.  If you see these worms in your pet's stool, please let us know as we will have to ask the lab to run a special test.

Hookworms: These small worms can cause intestinal bleeding and anemia.  They are most common in the southern half of the United States.

Here are some tips to help protect you and your family:

  • Promptly dispose of fecal material.
  • Keep children from playing where soil has been contaminated by feces.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Wear shoes in parks and areas where dogs have defecated.
  • Cover children’s sandboxes when not in use.
  • Keep your pet’s environment clean
  • Wear gloves when gardening.
  • Have your pet’s fecal sample check for parasites and treat for all infections promptly.