Intestinal Parasites: From Pets to People in Saratoga Springs, NY

Intestinal parasites are an icky, unpleasant reality for pets and their owners. It’s common for puppies and kittens to be born with them or pick them up from their environment, and as alarming and unpleasant as these parasites can be, they can be kept at bay with proper treatment and other measures.

So, if you’re concerned about intestinal parasites here in Saratoga Springs, NY, read on as we go into more detail about common intestinal parasites you should know about, how they’re transmitted, and what you can do to protect your pet and your human family members!

Common Intestinal Parasites That Can Affect Pets and People

Below are some of the most prevalent intestinal parasites affecting pets, and occasionally humans.

Roundworms (Toxocara canis)

Roundworms are one of the most common parasite offenders. Many puppies and kittens that see us for their first checkup have roundworms in their intestines. While this might come as a surprise, it is generally quite normal for puppies and kittens to pick up roundworms.

How Roundworms are Transmitted

Puppies and kittens can get roundworms while they are still in the womb of their infected mother, from nursing their infected mother, or by sniffing/licking around dog feces containing roundworm eggs or larvae. It’s also important to realize that the presence of infected dog feces is not just a risk for pets—it can also be a risk for children and adults who come into contact with the feces.

Since the eggs and larvae of roundworms are shed in the stool, the best way to screen for roundworm infection is to run a fecal exam. However, an infected dog may also shed the worms in its vomit.

Signs of Roundworm Infection

If your dog has roundworms, you may not know it. But for puppies or dogs with more significant roundworm infections, they might exhibit signs such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Dull coat
  • Distended belly (potbelly)
  • Coughing

Hookworms (Ascaris)

Hookworms are another invasive pest that reside in the digestive tract. They attach themselves to the intestinal wall, and sustain themselves on blood. Similar to roundworms, they are also shed in the feces.

How Hookworms are Transmitted

Hookworm larvae can often be found in soil, and coming into contact with this soil may be enough to infect your dog or cat. However, the larvae may also be transmitted in a more direct way, via ingestion. As with roundworms, hookworms may also be transmitted to humans.

Hookworms can be a serious threat to puppies, though they can also be a threat to adult dogs. Since hookworms ingest blood, this can lead to blood loss, or anemia. However, puppies are smaller and weaker, which is why anemia can be much more life-threatening for them.

Signs of Hookworm Infection

Symptoms of a hookworm infection may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea

Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum, Taenia, Echinococcus)

Tapeworms come in several varieties, depending on which organism they prefer to use as their host. The Dipylidium caninum species is the most common type of tapeworm, and it uses fleas as its host. These white, flattened-looking (and quite disgusting) worms attach to the wall of the intestine and grow segment by segment. An interesting fact about tapeworms is that each segment of their body contains its own reproductive system.

How Tapeworms are Transmitted

Tapeworms rarely affect people, though the Echinococcus species can be a major disease threat for humans. This species is rare in the US, however, and can be treated with prescription medication.

That being said, dogs may become infected with tapeworm if they come into contact with a flea that is being used as a host for tapeworm larvae. Ingesting the flea can lead to infection.

Signs Your Dog Has Tapeworm

There are a couple of (unpleasant) ways to determine if your dog is infected with tapeworm. One is finding what look like small, white, slightly flattened grains of rice stuck in the fur around your pet’s rear end. These “grains” are segments of the tapeworm. These segments may also be found in your pet’s stool, or even on their bed or blanket where they sleep.

Otherwise, there are not any notable clinical signs that your dog may be infected. Dogs generally do not lose weight if they are infected with tapeworms, and they do not typically get sick, either.

How to Protect Pets and Humans from Intestinal Parasites

The bad news: Intestinal parasites will always be here in Saratoga Springs, NY, and everywhere else around the world. The good news? As prevalent as these pests are, you can still take effective measures to protect your dog or cat, and your human family members and friends.

Here are some important tips!

Keep Your Pet Current with Their Parasite Preventatives

At Saratoga Veterinary Hospital, we recommend keeping your dog or cat on flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives all year round.

Why Heartworm Preventative?

Heartworm preventatives contain ingredients that combat not just heartworms, but also roundworms and hookworms. And if your pet is not infected with these gross pests, they also won’t shed worm eggs or larvae in their stool, which would put other animals and people at risk for transmission/infection.

Why Flea and Tick Preventative?

As you might have guessed, your pet’s flea and tick preventative can play a role in preventing a tapeworm infection. Since Dipylidium caninum is the most common species of tapeworm and uses fleas as its host, protecting your pet from fleas will in turn protect them from tapeworms.

Keep Your Yard Clean

As we discussed above, your dog’s feces could be ground zero for the spread of roundworms and/or hookworms. Cleaning up the stool right away removes the worm eggs and larvae from your family’s environment, so your dog, and your human family members, won’t come into contact with them.

Don’t Let Your Dog Sniff Around Another Dog’s Stool

Whether you’re in your backyard or strolling through your neighborhood, keep control of your dog and don’t let them wander off to sniff and potentially lick another dog’s feces. You have no way of knowing if those feces contain worm eggs or larvae!

Do Annual Fecal Tests for Your Dog

At Saratoga Veterinary Hospital, we recommend annual fecal tests to screen your pet for roundworms, hookworms, and other intestinal pests. If we don’t find anything, then your pet has a clean bill of health. If we do find evidence of worms, we will recommend the appropriate treatment to clear up the infection so your pet, and the rest of your family, can stay happy and healthy.

For more information about intestinal parasites and keeping your pet, and home, parasite-free, get in touch with our animal hospital at (518) 587-3832!

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About Saratoga Veterinary Hospital

Saratoga Veterinary Hospital is proud to serve as your local veterinarian of choice in WIlton, NY and the surrounding areas. Since its founding in 1973 by Dr. Sofarelli, our animal hospital’s main goal has been to strengthen the human-animal bond with exceptional veterinary medicine and client services.