Skip to content

Intestinal Parasites aka “WORMS” in Dogs and Cats

Sad dog lying in woman's lapDogs and cats can contract many different types of parasites. Some of these parasites live in their intestines. To diagnose intestinal parasites, veterinarians will take stool samples during your pet’s visit for vaccinations or illness. Intestinal parasites are common, especially in young animals, which is why fecal samples are important during your pet's visit.

What to Look For: 

The most common symptoms that these parasites cause are diarrhea, weight loss, a dull coat, coughing, sometimes vomiting and tiredness. Some parasites may also be seen in your pet’s poop, or where they lay down and stuck on the fur under their tail. Puppies and kittens are especially at risk as they are smaller and a worm burden can easily affect their health negatively. Another concern is that some parasitic infections can be “zoonotic,” which means that they can be transmitted to humans. An infection with these parasites can cause skin irritations, eye infections and other serious illnesses especially in young children.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Your veterinarian will take a stool sample to test for the presence of eggs that cannot be seen by the naked eye from the mature worm.  A special test is done to make the eggs visible under a microscope.

In addition, there are parasites that require special lab tests. Examples would be giardia, a protozoal parasite and tapeworms which are often carried by fleas or rodents. After the type of intestinal parasite is found, we can treat your pet by using the best dewormer medication to kill and eliminate the parasite. Veterinarians have the most powerful and effective dewormers available for treating your pet.

Best processes to prevent infection:

Preventing infection by intestinal parasites is highly dependent on good sanitation practices.

  • Clean up your pet’s poop as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Make sure your pet has a source of clean water, because some parasites can often be found in contaminated water.
  • Prevent your pet from eating soil or grass especially if yard was formerly inhabited by other animals, which can contain parasitic eggs.
  • Remember that droppings from other dogs might be infested–be sure that your dog doesn’t interact with these while out on walks. Dog parks may often be an area of infestation as well.
  • It is helpful to use a monthly flea prevention treatment to prevent parasite infection by infected fleas.
  • Wash your hands after playing with your pet and make sure that outdoor play areas for your children, like sandboxes, do not contain any animal droppings.

—Dr. Hale