Many intestinal parasites found in our dogs and cats are also transmissible to people, these are called zoonotic infections. These zoonotic parasites include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, certain tapeworms, and giardia (a protozoan parasite). A Canadian study looking at roundworm infections, found that 19.5% of the children in rural and 14% of children in urban Dartmouth/Halifax areas were seropositive to T. Canis (the dog roundworm). Every year in the USA, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention receives 3000 – 4000 positive serum samples from people with a presumptive diagnosis of larval migrans.
It is not only for the protection of our pets but also for disease prevention in people, that parasitologists as well as veterinarians recommend that we regularly test or empirically “deworm” our pets. Some parasitologists believe our dogs and outdoor cats should be dewormed 3 to 4 times yearly. We think that for most of our pets this seems excessive, however it doesn’t seem unreasonable to deworm our pets once yearly. If possible we feel it is best to analyze a stool sample from your dog or cat. Stool/fecal analysis is a microscopic examination (stool is mixed with a special solution, then centrifuged and then analyzed) to determine if indeed your pet has a parasite and if so which parasite. The only intestinal parasite that we/you may regularly see visible in a stool sample is from the tapeworm. Other parasites either are invisible to the naked eye in their adult form or most worm parasites only want to shed their eggs into the stool not themselves. If adult worms are passed in the stool or are occasionally vomited up (as we periodically see in puppies/kittens), it means your pet is LOADED with these intestinal parasites that are now physically being pushed out due to over crowding!!! There truly is no one medication that treats all intestinal parasites (roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, tapeworms, giardia and coccidia). Knowing which parasite your pet has picked up allows an effective medication or combination of medications to be selected for your pet. If however the stool/fecal sample is negative for parasites NO medication is given. If it is a problem to get a stool sample we can use certain broad spectrum worming medications.
If you have more questions or concerns as to what is the right treatment for your special dog or cat, speak to your veterinarian.