Pet Health Q & A: Intestinal Parasites

Q – What types of internal parasites can my pet get from the environment?

A – Internal parasites live in the gastrointestinal tract of your pet and can include roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms.

Q – How does my pet get infected with these parasites?

A – Roundworm and hookworm eggs are ingested in the environment from fecal contamination. Tapeworms are transmitted through ingestion of a specific insect vector, like fleas. It is important to note that certain worms can be transmitted between species in your household as well (example: cats to dogs and vice versa).


Q – What are some of the lifestyle factors that put my pet at risk of infection with internal parasites?

A – For dogs, risk factors include acreage/farm dogs exposed to wildlife or carcasses, coprophagia (eating animal feces), multi-pet households, or those who frequent dog parks, dog day care, and other public dog areas.  For cats, risk factors include outdoor cats that hunt small mammals, coprophagia, and multi-pet households.


Q – How do I know if my pet is infected with parasites?

A – Most often, there are NO signs associated with internal parasite infection. In severely affected animals symptoms can include: visualization of worms in the feces, weight loss, increased appetite or vomiting.

Q – Can some of these parasites be transmitted from my cat or dog to people?

A – Yes. Internal parasites such as roundworms are transmitted through environmental contamination with infected animal feces. The risk level of parasite transmission to humans depends on many factors including – degree of parasite burden in the pet, personal hygiene/hand washing, immune status, and age (children are at higher risk).


Q – What can I do to treat or prevent parasite infections in my pet?

A – Routine preventative deworming is the best way to keep your pet healthy and to prevent transmission of parasites to people.  Have a discussion about your pet’s risk level with your veterinarian and that will determine treatment type and frequency.

**Remember – Intestinal and external parasites are specific to the region you live in or travel to. Only a veterinarian can prescribe the appropriate treatment for your pet that will be safe and effective.

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