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Everything You Need To Know About Deworming

Posted 05.04.17 by Katie Willis

Many clients routinely have questions about deworming their pets. There are many parasites that can affect dogs and cats, and it can be difficult to discern when a dewormer is needed and the type. Intestinal parasites are typically contracted through consuming worm eggs from the soil in the environment, nursing from an infected mother, eating infected wildlife, or in utero when an infected mother is pregnant. Roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms are common intestinal parasites. They are diagnosed with a fecal sample to identify specific eggs characteristic of each type of worm. Often, clients mistakenly confuse heartworms with intestinal parasites. Heartworms are a parasite in the blood, lungs, and heart transmitted by mosquitoes. Diagnosis is through a blood sample to screen for larvae and adult heartworms.

A few guidelines to consider:

(1)  Puppies should be dewormed during routine preventative care visits, as they frequently can develop intestinal parasites from their mothers before birth or from infected milk. Typically, they are dewormed more than once to target worms migrating to the intestines during earlier stages of their respective life cycles.

(2) Keep your pet on heartworm prevention. The heartworm prevention not only provides life-saving prevention against heartworm disease, but the preventions also all provide variable protections against multiple intestinal parasites. Year-round flea and tick prevention is also essential to prevent tapeworms that can develop from infected fleas as well as other blood-borne parasites.

(3) If you  notice worms in your pet’s fecal material, it is advisable not to get an over the counter dewormer. Different parasites require different dewormers and protocols for resolution. A veterinarian should perform a fecal examination under a microscope to provide a definitive diagnosis of the type of parasite present in order to institute appropriate treatment.

(4) Have a veterinarian perform a fecal examination and heartworm test at least once a year. If parasites are identified early, they can be treated before serious clinical signs occur. Common clinical signs of intestinal parasites are weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. Coughing and exercise intolerance are frequently noted in dogs with heartworm disease.

*Please be mindful that some parasites, such as roundworms and hookworms, can cause serious infections in humans, particularly small children. Regularly pick up your dog’s waste in the yard and clean cat litter boxes daily. Wash hands thoroughly after disposal.


Dr. Lindsey Brown

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