The fact that the Okanagan is one of the areas in Canada in which there is infestation of heartworm has been discussed before. Most animal owners are diligent about regularly vaccinating their pets, and now in the heartworm season, applying heartworm control medication. However, it seems that the regular deworming of pets is slightly overlooked. Many people attribute the infestation of intestinal parasites only to puppies and kittens. Adults pets are also prone to contract intestinal parasites.
Gastrointestinal parasites are very common in both dogs and cats. In general there are few different types of parasites:
Protozoa are are single cell parasites. The most common protozoa that infect 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 in higher risk of getting infected by Giardia.
Intestinal worms consist of Roundworm, Hookworms, Whipworms and Tapeworms. Intestinal worms are most common in puppies and kittens but very commonly infest also adult pets.
Gastrointestinal parasites affect the animal in few different ways. Firstly they are located in the animal’s intestine and utilize the food that the animal eats for their own body and needs which deprives 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 his 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 anti fleas 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 see 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. As a general recommendation, I recommend to pet owners as prevention to routinely deworm their pet every 3-6 months.
Heartworm is a serious matter that was discussed on a separate article 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 in. This is a life threatening condition that can be prevented by monthly administration of one of the heartworm medication. I recommend to my clients to start applying heartworm prevention medication as early as April.
Regular deworming is an essential part of pets' health keeping. There are numerous options of parasites control products available. A dog that is taken often on hiking trips in the woods or camping, obviously will not be treated similarly to an indoor cat, for an example. Knowing you and your specific lifestyle and needs, your veterinarian is best to advise you which product, and deworming protocol are best for your pet.