The best protection from intestinal parasites, heartworm and fleas is through the continuous administration of preventative medication to all pets.
Intestinal parasites are a common problem for pets that travel outside their backyard. Many dogs visit parks specifically designed for play safe from cars but certainly not safe from parasites other dogs may carry. Roundworms are the most commonly found parasite in both cats and dogs. A yearly fecal examination is recommended for all pets that go outdoors even occasionally.
"Sentinal" for dogs and "Revolution" for cats provide the easiest way for most pets to get the best protection but our staff has been trained to make recommendations for your individual situation. For detailed information about the zoonotic concerns involving intestinal parasites in pets visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Why is year round protection the best:
- With our early spring weather, the length of our parasite season is increasing.
- Concerns about when to start and stop administration of medication are resolved by always giving the medication once monthly.
- Frequency of heartworm testing is reduced to every 2 years instead of yearly. This testing can now coincide with vaccination visits instead of scheduling a separate visits.
- Pets are members of our family, plus they provide a barrier keeping zoonotic diseases from the rest of the family. (Intestinal parasites can cause serious disease in people.)
A yearly examination of your pet's feces enables detection of intestinal parasites including roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and coccidia. Tapeworm diagnosis is commonly made through visual exam of the feces and a history or exposure to fleas or ingestion of rabbits. Parasites can cause diarrhea, vomiting, anemia and weight loss.
- Blood sucking parasite causing anemia
- Humans exposed to the larvae can cause migration in the skin causing irritations and migration to the eye causing blindness. (Visceral Larval Migrans)
- Not seen in cats within Minnesota
- Picked up in soil where pets have defecated, rodents and earthworms known to aid migration.
- Approximately 3% of human U.S. population is infected.
- Common childhood exposure occurs from eating dirt at infected playgrounds.
- Most common parasite of puppies and kittens in Minnesota
- Causes irritation to large intestine and cecum, which result in watery, bloody diarrhea.
- Not seen in cats within Minnesota, appears very similar to the lungworm that is seen in cats.
- A very small one-celled parasite the infects the intestinal tract.
- Most commonly causes an soft stool but no weight loss or diarrhea.
The National Parasite Prevalence Survey
Do you ever wonder why our veterinarians are concerned about intestinal parasites, when after all they are "just worms"? Veterinarians read fecal parasite specimens daily, and have a good idea how common gastrointestinal parasites can be. But just how prevalent are they in the Midwest?
You may be surprised that our intuitive assessment of intestinal parasite prevalence was one of the few sources of this type of data for a long time. Detailed, comprehensive studies on parasite prevalence had not been undertaken until a comprehensive survey was conducted in 1994.
In this first and only national parasite prevalence survey, fecal samples were obtained from 131 shelters across the United States and submitted to Dr. Byron Blagburn at Auburn University for analysis. Animal shelters were selected from the largest cities in each state. Nationwide sampling was based on the 1990 human census, assuming that the dog population closely followed the human population.
Prevalence is the percentage of dogs in a population infected at a given time. To study the prevalence of gastrointestinal nematodes in dogs, 6458 dogs in 50 states were surveyed. The U.S. was divided into four regions. The results may surprise you. (Figure 2)
Perhaps one of the most interesting and unexpected findings is that the prevalence of Trichuris (whipworms) is approximately equal to the prevalence of Toxocara (roundworms) nationally. (Figure 3)
Generally, puppies have been considered the most common age group for parasites and this was confirmed. Notice that the prevalence of Toxocara (roundworm) infections exceeds 30% for dogs less than 6 months. Although prevalence decreases after 6 months of age, roundworm infections occur throughout a dog's lifetime and are not limited to puppies. (Figure 4)
National and regional data of dogs infected with one or more of the three most prevalent gastrointestinal nematodes area summarized in Figure 5. The Midwest prevalence of one or more gastrointestinal parasites was 39%. Whoa!