Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Intestinal Parasites and Your Puppy/Kitten

   Zoonotic diseases are the current topic of my veterinary technology classes, and a lot of the focus is on intestinal parasites. To be completely honest, I was under the impression that you could only get tapeworm from an infected pet. And I was wrong. Roundworm, hookworm, and tapeworm can pose a risk to you if your pet is carrying them.

   As you might guess, children are more at risk of becoming infected with any intestinal parasite, due to their habits of putting things in their mouth and walking barefoot outdoors.

   Now wait a minute.

   I walk outside barefoot.

Cutaneous Larva Migrans
   ...Well, if you are like me, then keeping your pets free of hookworm is important. Hookworms can penetrate your skin and commonly cause a condition called cutaneous larva migrans; essentially baby worms migrating under your skin. Not cool, folks. Not cool.

   Roundworms can also cause problems for furkid parents. Although a roundworm infection rarely causes symptoms, they can sometimes infect the eye and cause the infected person to become permanently blind.

   Well, I'm done scaring you with the problems these little buggers can cause. What can you do about them when they are there, and how can you prevent them?

  • Tapeworms are caused by ingesting fleas or rodents infected with tapeworms. Solution: Pest and parasite control. Get rid of the fleas and get rid of the rodents.

  • Roundworms are caused by ingestion of contaminated soil/objects, and ingesting infected small animals. Proper hygiene can help prevent roundworms, although it isn't a completely effective preventative measure. Nearly all puppies and kittens are born with roundworms, but we'll discuss that later.

Diagram of Roundworms in the Intestines
  • Hookworms are caused by ingestion of contaminated soil/objects, infected small animals, and by hookworm larva penetrating the skin on the pads of your dog or cat's feet. Some puppies and kittens are also born with them. Again, proper sanitation is the best preventative measure.
    Roundworms actually "hibernate" in the bodies of some animals, creating a protective barrier around themselves, until pregnancy hormones are released. They then emerge and infect puppies prenatally.

   The CDC recommends that puppies be de-wormed at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age. This is because the roundworm takes approximately three weeks to mature and start producing eggs, which will be shed in the feces. Roundworm eggs can survive in the environment, provided conditions are ideal, for years, so it is important to get rid of the parasites before they can infect an area with their eggs. Repeated worming while the puppy is nursing is important, because they will continue to emerge from the cysts in the dam's body and spread via the mother's milk.

   On the other hand, kittens can not become infected with worms prenatally, and worms are not as likely to infect kittens as they are puppies, so the CDC recommends de-worming kittens at 6, 8, and 10 weeks of age.

   The de-wormer should also take care of hookworms, which are also common in young animals.

   I hope I have proven the importance of yearly fecal examinations to you! I know the class proved it to me. You can choose to prevent intestinal parasites in your pet with a preventative heartworm product that also controls intestinal parasites, like Heartgard Plus, or you can choose to use a de-wormer as needed. If you choose to go with the latter, consider using a natural, herbal de-wormer which may be less damaging to your pet's body, like ONP Para-Gone or any of these other natural de-wormers.



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