Intestinal parasites are worms and protozoan parasites than live in the intestinal tract. Symptoms can be diarrhea, bloody or mucousy stool, weight loss, and occasionally vomitting.
Tapeworms, in the small intestines, look bad when the segments come out, but actually usually cause less damage than some of the worms and parasites that are invisible or very small. Tapeworms may be acquired from a dog or cat swallowing fleas that are carrying Dipylidium tapeworms, or from eating rabbits or rodents carrying Taenia tapeworms. The segments are in chains in the intestines, but usually just one segment comes out at a time, and may be seen in the stool or near the anus. When they are fresh, they move around, and when they dry up they look like a grain of rice. They are easily treated with appropriate medications.
Roundworms look more like sphaghetti. They are called ascarids. Mother dogs and cats can pass roundworms to their young either in the uterus or while nursing, and they are very common, so all puppies and kittens should be dewormed for roundworms every two weeks, starting at two weeks old (or older if started at a later age) for a total of at least 3 dewormings with appropriate medications, and a stool sample then should be tested to make sure it is negative. Monthly heartworm preventives then provide further treatment and preventive for roundworms. Roundworms are dangerous to people, especially children, so children should be kept away from puppies and kittens with roundworms, and the stool should be cleaned up frequently in the yard.
Hookworms are another, very small, almost microscopic worm that puppies and kittens can either be born with or acquire while nursing, and they are also very common. They live in the small intestines. They can cause bloody diarrhea and anemia, which, if bad enough, can be fatal. They are much more common in dogs than in cats in this area. The same medications that treat roundworms are used for hookworms, with the same regimen.
The migrating larvae of both roundworms and hookworms from dogs and cats can cause various type of serious problems in people. People usually don't get dog or cat hookworms or roundworms in their intestines. Hookworms can burrow through human skin and cause painful, itchy skin lesions. This is called cutaneous larval migrans. Larvated roundworm eggs can be ingested by people, and the larvae can migrate through the liver, lungs, eye, or brain. This is called visceral, ocular, or neural larval migrans, respectively. Young children are most susceptible, because they do not always practice good hygiene. People can get roundworm larval migrans from dogs or cats, and even raccoons. This can cause organ damage, blindness, or brain damage. If there are raccoons around, dogs can also get the raccoon roundworm. People can get a fatal brain infestation from ingesting larvated eggs of the raccoon roundworm, which is another reason to deworm dogs, and clean up the feces if infested with roundworms, before the eggs larvate and become infective. If there is a raccoon latrine (where raccoons defecate) around the house, special care should be taken to clean it up using special sanitary measures recommended by the health department. Raccoon stool can be identified by the many seeds that are usually visible, and they usually pick a certain spot to use as a latrine, so there will be a pile. It is imperative to keep children away from raccon latrines. If there are many raccoons around, they should be caught in humane traps and moved elsewhere, further out in the country, if possible. Dog and cat roundworms are dangerous to people, but raccoon roundworm larval migrans is usually fatal in people.
Whipworms are another type of intestinal worm living in the cecum and large intestine of dogs, rarely in cats. They can cause a severe, bloody, mucousy diarrhea, and cause weakness, dehydration, and weight loss. People are not very likely to get whipworms from dogs or cats. Whipworms are most common in outside dogs that run loose. Some types of heartworm preventive, such as Interceptor, prevent whipworms. Whipworms are common in this area.
Coccidia and giardia are the two most common protozoan parasites in this area. They are one-celled, microscopic organisms. They can cause diarrhea, which may be bloody or mucousy, and dehydration, weakness, and weight loss. People can get giardia, so good hygiene is important if your pet has giardia. Symptoms from coccidia and giardia are most common in young animals, and, if they are found, they should be treated with appropriate medications.
We recommend annual fecal parasite exams, as well as fecal exams in puppies and kittens, both before and after treatment. All dogs should get a monthly heartworm preventive, which serves also as a monthly intestinal worm dewormer.