These threats are a very common occurrence amongst our pets. Intestinal parasites are a wide variety of organisms, each of which has a unique genetic makeup, lifecycle, and method for invading the body. Left untreated, parasites cause damage to the gastrointestinal system and even other parts of the body. Some very common (meaning, we generally identify positive cases daily) intestinal parasites we see at our Clinic are giardia (beaver fever), toxocara (roundworm), and isospora (coccidia).
Intestinal parasites are most often contracted by eating infected fecal matter (from both wildlife and domestic animals) and hunting and eating wildlife. Even taking our pets outside presents a risk for contracting parasites. Any bodily surface on our pets (especially the paws, legs, and belly) may be exposed to invisible fecal residue containing parasite eggs. Of course, our pets don’t have a developed sense of hygiene and will lick their paws and coats, infecting themselves. Even strictly indoor cats and dogs may contract intestinal parasites because they can be easily tracked into our homes on our clothing (especially our shoes!) and house plants. These parasites are also very contagious and can be passed easily from one animal to the next, making intestinal parasites one of the most common conditions we see.
Though parasite infections can cause vomiting and diarrhea, a lot of the time they don’t cause any signs at all. In fact, most families are surprised when we identify parasites in their pets. Even more frightening, some of these parasites can be transmitted to our human family! This highlights why regular fecal screening is extremely important! We recommend annual testing along with the annual wellness check-up, but may recommend more frequent testing depending on your pet’s lifestyle. Though heartworm prevention treatments also target several common intestinal parasites, many require specific treatment, so proper species identification is important. Contact us to learn more about how your furry family member can live parasite-free!