Dogs, cats and most other creatures for that matter are susceptible to having internal parasites. Now, when we discuss internal parasites, most people think of worms, and pets do get worms. But they also often have microscopic one-cell organisms such as coccidia and giardia which can equally upset the digestive process.

Parasites can be picked-up by licking the ground, drinking contaminated water, and from the mother dog/cat to the offspring before or after birth! Fleas, rodents and birds can also give your pet tapeworms. So one can see that it isn't too hard for your pet to become infested. It is also important to realize that not all pets that have parasites will be thin and have diarrhea. Many look quite normal on the outside.

Now, a few other facts and myths about internal parasites:

MYTH: I don't see worms so my pet must not have any.
FACT: Pet's rarely pass worms, and even if they do, you rarely will there to see them. When your veterinarian "looks" for worms, a microscopic examination of a fecal extract is performed, looking for the eggs of the adult worms. This is the most reliable method of identification. Also, because your pet may have one-celled parasites, there would be nothing even visible to the naked eye. For this reason, regular fecal parasite analysis should be performed, often along with your pet's regular check-ups.

MYTH: If my pet is scooting it has worms.
FACT: While a pet with worms MAY scoot, most often dogs or cats that scoot have an impaction of their anal glands. As your veterinarian to examine and "clean" these if your pet scoots.

MYTH: If I give my pet a wormer from the pet store that will take care of everything.
FACT: Firstly, over-the-counter wormers are often not safe, many contain drugs no longer commonly used because much safer and more effective products exist.

Second, most over-the-counter wormers don't kill tapeworms. This is just another reason why a proper diagnosis and exacting treatment is important to properly treat your pet.

Thirdly, over-the-counter wormers won't take care of one-celled parasites.

Forth, ask yourself, would you take a medication to treat an illness for which you did not have a diagnosis? Then why would we do that to our pets?



2007 James W. Day D.V.M., P.C.