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Protect Your Cats and Dogs from Parasites

I certainly do not want to ‘open up a can of worms’ for pet owners. However, I do think it’s important for owners to know about worms or parasites that can have an effect on their pet’s health. It is a problem that we should be able to eliminate as a concern for pets and the people in their families.

We are fortunate to live in a country where it is rather easy to forget about the threat of parasites to our human health.

It is important to remember that our pets, when it comes to parasites, live in rather a different world. We need to be aware of actions we must take, for both our pets and ourselves, to ensure those two worlds do not collide.

Roundworms, known as ascarids in medical terminology, are the internal parasites to discuss this time. They are called roundworms because of their round body shape. Adults, who live in the small intestine of cats and dogs, can reach several centimetres in body length. There are four species that are a problem in our area. One species affects dogs, one species affects cats and one species can infect either dogs or cats. Another species of roundworm that primarily infects raccoons is becoming more of a concern for people and pets, as raccoon numbers increase in our neighbourhoods. Roundworms are a very common parasite of dogs and cats around the world. Recent studies in the U.S. found that more than 30 per cent of dogs younger that six months of age were shedding roundworm eggs in their stools. Other studies have shown that virtually all pups are born with one species of the worm. Cat studies suggest 25 per cent of cats are infected with the species that most frequently infects them.

Dogs and cats can become infected with roundworms in a number of different ways. They can be infected with any of the roundworm species via ingestion of infective roundworm eggs from a contaminated environment. If they consume other animals that are infected with roundworms, cats and dogs may become infected. Infective stages of the roundworm commonly affecting dogs can be passed to puppies by ingesting their mother’s milk. Additionally, that same type of roundworm can spread from infected mothers to developing puppies, in utero, before they are born.

Disease in dogs and cats that become infected with roundworms is most severe in young kittens and puppies. They fail to gain weight, develop a pot-bellied appearance, have a poor quality haircoat and in general do poorly. It is not uncommon in animals 4-6 months of age to vomit large masses of adult worms. When such a thing happens, it can be almost as distressful for family members of the pet as it is for the pet itself. However these adult worms that have been vomited, do not pose any threat of infection to other pets or people. In older animals the parasites can cause inflammation and irritation to the lining tissues of the stomach and small intestines that results in diarrhea and/or vomiting.

Whenever a dog or cat becomes infected with this kind of parasite, eventually the worm reaches adulthood in the small intestine. Within a few weeks the adult worms begin to produce eggs that are passed in the feces. The eggs usually require 2-4 weeks in the environment before they become infective or are able to cause infection. However, once this occurs the eggs are quite hardy and can remain a threat to cause infection, if they are ingested, for several years. Puppies who may have been infected before birth should have regular dewormings beginning when they are two weeks old. Diagnosis of infection in older animals relies on identifying eggs of the parasite in the animal’s stool. A single adult roundworm can produce as many as 85,000 eggs per day. This means if there are worms present, it should not be a problem for your veterinarian to diagnose the problem. There are a number of usually very effective medications that can be used to eliminate the parasites from an infected cat or dog. To treat potential newly-acquired infections of roundworms, the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends dogs and cats should be maintained on monthly intestinal parasite control medications. Periodically, stool examinations from pets should be performed by veterinarians to assure they are free from roundworm infections.

There is a danger of roundworms posing a zoonotic danger to people. Most commonly this is a problem for children living in a contaminated environment when they ingest infective roundworm eggs. The larvae that develop from these eggs, after ingestion, migrate internally through the child’s body and in so doing can cause very serious disease. Control of these parasites is indeed an important component of responsible pet ownership. This allows for optimal health for pets and elimination of any increased risk to family members from roundworms.

Burlington Post
By Barry Burtis Guest Contributor
Barry Burtis is a local companion animal veterinarian. Past Pet Tales can be found at

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  • alisha
    January 26, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    i love this .it looks just like my dogs