On July 6, 1885, French biologist Louis Pasteur successfully administered the first vaccination against a zoonotic disease – that is, a disease that can be spread between humans and animals. Each year World Zoonoses Day is celebrated as a way to commemorate this historic event, and raise awareness about the risks of zoonotic diseases.
Intestinal parasites is another example of an organism that can be passed from our furry friends to us, and can wreak havoc on the health and well being of pets and people. In honor of World Zoonoses Day, we would like to highlight the very common problem of intestinal parasites in pets, and what pet owners can do to protect their two and four-legged family members.
Common Intestinal Parasites in Pets
- Roundworms – The most common intestinal parasites in pets, roundworms are contracted by ingesting contaminated soil or infected prey (such as a mouse). Kittens and puppies can contract roundworm from their mothers, which is why they need de-worming done at an early age.
- Hookworms – These threadlike worms attach themselves to the lining of the intestine in dogs and cats, where they feed on blood and shed their eggs in the pet’s feces. Hookworm infections can cause symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea and weight loss to full-blown anemia caused by blood loss. Both pets and people usually become infected with hookworm through contact with infected soil.
- Whipworms – Whipworms are tiny and live in the intestines of infected dogs. Whipworms are usually contracted through ingestion of infected soil. Fecal tests are the only way to diagnose whipworms, as they are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
- Giardia – Giardia is a single celled, microscopic parasite that can affect both people and pets. Giardia causes inflammation of the intestine, resulting in bloody diarrhea. Ingestion of contaminated water or food is the most common means of contracting giardia.
- Tapeworm – Tapeworms live in the intestines and absorb nutrients eaten by the host. Most pets contract tapeworm by ingesting infected fleas. Controlling fleas via year-round flea prevention protocol is highly effective in preventing tapeworm.
Prevention and Treatment
Your trusted veterinarian should be your number one resource for the prevention and treatment of intestinal parasites in pets. By protecting your pet from parasites and other zoonotic diseases, you are also safeguarding the health of your whole family.
Preventing parasites in pets is as simple as keeping your pet on year round flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medication. Many heartworm preventive medications also contain intestinal parasite protection elements. Every pet should have yearly fecal testing done to ensure they are parasite free, or to treat any parasites that are present. This testing is typically performed at your pet’s annual wellness exam.