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WORMS

Pet owners should ask their veterinarians which parasites to watch for because worms have various geographical distributions (e.g., heartworm is more common among cats in warmer climates). Pet owners can take preventative measures against particular parasites. Medications are commonly used to prevent most worm infections.

Roundworms (Toxocara species)
Roundworm infection is transmitted through ingestion of its eggs in an infected rodent, infected soil, or milk from an infected mother. The eggs hatch into larvae in the stomach, and the larvae travel to the small intestine where they mature into adults. The adults lay eggs, which pass out of the pet in its feces. The worms can also be transmitted from mother to puppies or kittens in utero.

If humans somehow ingest roundworm eggs, the eggs can develop into an infection. It is important to wash hands after handling dog feces. Children should not be allowed to play on soil where dogs defecate.

Symptoms typically include the following:

  • Bloated belly
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
Severe infection can create intestinal obstruction and cause death in puppies and kittens.

Roundworm is diagnosed by examining the feces for the presence of eggs.

Several oral medications are available for the treatment of roundworms. Pet owners should discuss the options with their veterinarian. Treatment generally requires more than a single dose.

Pet owners also should ask their veterinarian about the incidence of roundworm in their geographical area and whether monthly preventative medication (e.g., Sentinel®, Heartgard Plus®) is necessary.

Hookworms (Ancylostoma)
Hookworms are the most common canine intestinal parasite in the United States, infecting nearly 20% of all dogs. Hookworms attach to a dog's intestinal lining with hooklike teeth.

Hookworm infection is transmitted by ingesting the infective larvae (which usually live in soil) or by the larvae attaching to and burrowing through the dog's skin. Once inside the dog's body, larvae travel to the small intestine, mature, mate, and lay eggs. The eggs pass into the soil through the dog's feces. Hookworm can also be transmitted through a nursing mother's milk.

Since hookworms can penetrate skin tissue, it is possible for people to pick up the larvae when walking barefoot on infected soil. Children should not be allowed to play in areas where dogs defecate.

Symptoms of hookworm infection include the following:

  • Anemia (severe cases)
  • Diarrhea
  • Diminished strength and vitality
The worms feed on the host's blood. Puppies can develop life-threatening anemia from blood loss even before eggs are detectable in the feces.

Hookworm disease is diagnosed by examining the feces for eggs.

Several oral medications are available for the treatment of hookworms. Several preventative monthly medications are also available. Pet owners should discuss the options with their veterinarian.

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