Friday, March 20, 2009


As promised, here is the second post in a series of four on pet parasites. I picked the generic title to try to titillate the search engine spiders in an attempt to get more readers.

Intestinal parasties, or worms, are parasites that live in our pets' (you guessed it) intestines. They are important because not only do they cause disease in our pets, but some of them are zoonotic, meaning they can cause disease in people as well. This is why we emphasize regular fecal tests, parasite control for all dogs and cats, and prompt treatment when worms are found. At Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital, we follow the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control as Outlined by the Companion Animal Parasite Control Comission. Their website will provide excellent information on different parasites, their life cycles and more in depth descriptions of each worm.

Well how can my pet get worms? "My cat never goes outdoors", or "my dog doesn't even like other dogs". Many pets are infected long before they came to live with youl. Both round worms and hook worms have very short life cycles and can infect puppies and kittens in the uterus, before they are born. Most treatments, do not kill all of the larval stages of these worms, so even if your fluffy one has been dewormed, only the adult worms were killed. The larval forms will continute to mature and eventually shed eggs into the environment. Potentially re-infecting the pet or exposing the people in the home to parasite infections as well. This is why you need to deworm them multiple times if they are infected.

Older pups and kittens can be infected through their mother's milk. And after weaning, pups and people are at risk of infection from microscopic eggs in the environment. It is very important to clean up pet wasted before these eggs mature. In the south, it is very important not to walk bare foot where hookworm larva may be in the soil.

The curious thing about round worms and hook worms, is that they can lay dorment in their animal hosts for years. That's why it is important to test all pets regularly and use some sort of preventative. These dorment infections can become active later in life, so the mature cat that is walking on the kitchen counter can have rondworms eggs on it's feet, even if it hasn't been outdoors for years.

Prevention and detection is easy. Regular fecal examinations are a must. Twice a year for dogs and cats that go out. Yearly for cats that have tested negative in the past and haven't been outside for years.

All dogs should be on a monthly parasite control medication such as Heartguard, Advantage Multi, or Sentinel all year long. (that's 12 months of the year) This will prevent heartworms, control intestinal parasites (treat them with some of the products) and some of these products will help to control fleas as well. (fleas will be the topic of an upcoming blog post).

All cats should be on montly parasite control programs as well. We recommed Revolution or Advnatage Multi for cats. Ideally all year long, but for indoor cats, 6 months of the year is probably adequate. These products also control fleas, a source of the bacteria that causes cat scratch fever, the bacterial infection, not the Ted Nugent song.

So we can live safely with our pets. Just keep in mind that prevention beats the crap out of treatment and disease, especially when it comes to intestinal worms. Next post, we can talk about flea control as the weather hopefully starts to get warmer here in the Northeast.

Keith Niesenbaum, VMD

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