When it comes to parasites, most pet owners are familiar with fleas and ticks. But there are many other parasites that threaten the health of dogs and cats, and some may not even show symptoms!
Danielle Hirka brought her 9-year-old Australian Shepherd, Oakley, to EVC for his regular exam on February 2nd. As usual, she brought along a fecal sample for analysis.
While Oakley’s physical exam was normal, his fecal analysis was not. Oakley had roundworms. While roundworms are common intestinal parasites in puppies, it is rare to find them in adult dogs.
Roundworms can be spread in several ways: from mother to her puppies, through contact with infected feces, or through the consumption of a rodent infested with roundworms. While roundworms can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and a pot-bellied appearance, many times infected dogs and cats do not display symptoms. However, owners are often horrified when their dog or cat either vomits up the live worms, which can be several inches long, or passes them in their stool.
Roundworm eggs under a microscope
In rare cases, roundworms can cause coughing if the worms migrate to the lungs. Oakley had, in fact, developed a cough. Along with the presence of blood in his stool once, these symptoms are what had convinced Danielle to bring Oakley to EVC.
“We still aren’t sure [if the cough is related], but it seemed to appear right around the same time as the stool issue,” she says. “Both of these changes brought it to our attention that we needed to get him checked out.”
The diagnosis surprised Danielle, who says Oakley has never had intestinal parasites before. “I had taken him to another vet and they did not catch this, so as shocked as I was, I’m glad we caught it.”
As with many intestinal parasites, roundworms can also present hazards to humans.
Children exposed to roundworms can develop a condition called ocular larva migrans, in which a roundworm invades the eyeball. Rarely, roundworm infections can cause lung, heart and neurological issues in humans.
To detect the presence of parasites, EVC uses a fecal testing process called centrifugation. A small amount of stool is mixed with a flotation solution that when spun at a high speed in a centrifuge, causes eggs to float to the surface of the solution. A sample from the top of the solution is examined under the microscope, and eggs can be visualized.
Because many pets do not show symptoms of intestinal parasites, and because intestinal parasite eggs are not visible to the naked eye, EVC recommends having your pet’s stool tested regularly, as Danielle does. Early detection of parasites allows for treatment, often before your pet’s health is affected by the parasites.
Oakley was placed on the parasite preventative Interceptor, which controls roundworms as well as three other intestinal parasites and heartworm. He was also given a one-dose oral liquid dewormer.
Danielle said she is happy Oakley’s parasite was easily eliminated, so he could continue doing what he does best: making his mom smile.
“We love Oakley because he has the biggest personality for being such a little dog,” she says. I’ve always had dogs in my life, but Oakley is special. He has a personality that is so human-like it’s too endearing not to love. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of amazing dogs in my life, and Oakley is no exception.”
Preventing most parasites is simple. EVC carries several parasite preventatives, including Revolution, Interceptor, Frontline, and Trifexis. These preventatives are given every 30 days. Revolution and Frontline are topical medications, while Interceptor and Frontline are chewable tablets. All these medications contain dewormers to help prevent intestinal parasites infestations.
Dewormers work by treating parasites retroactively, meaning they deworm for the previous month’s exposure. For example, should your pet contract roundworms in April, the May dose of preventative would eliminate them from your pet’s system, well before the parasites cause problems for the pet.
Danielle said she encourages other pet owners to listen to their pet’s veterinarian and to research parasite preventatives and medication.
“After learning more about parasites from this experience it’s really taught me that they are way more common than I thought,” she said. “I feel like this experience has caused me to educate myself more, and really make sure to ask more questions about medications at the vet.”
EVC will be offering big savings on parasite preventatives during March & April. Save $10 on a year’s-supply of Trifexis or Revolution, or a year’s-supply of Interceptor Plus AND a year’s-supply of Frontline Gold or Simparica. Call us today at (616) 649-1075 to learn more or to schedule an appointment for your pet! To learn more about intestinal parasites, visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council.