Parasites Pt. 2
By Arbutus West, on Thursday, June 1st, 2017
We ended last post by promising to go over internal parasites are worms and protozoa (like giardia). They can cause severe disease in puppies and kittens, or diarrhea in adults when present in heavy numbers. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) a healthy adult can carry a heavy burden and not show any clinical signs, but still be shedding and contaminating the environment. There are many strategies for dealing with them, and no on strategy is inherently better than another. Your family veterinarian will be familiar with what parasites occur most commonly in you area, what the seasonal distribution is, and how likely your pet is to be exposed and/or infected.
Internal parasites can be broken down into two families: hemlinths (worms) include roundworms (most common in Vancouver), hookworms (often present in pets brought up by rescuers from California or Mexico), whipworm and tapeworm. Each of these has a different risk profile and some can even pose a hazard to humans, although public health risk is generally deemed very low with worms. Usually they are more of a nuisance than a serious health problem, with the exception of a few species that are thankfully very rare in Canada. There has to be some benefit to living in a colder climate!
Most helminths can be killed using commonly available de-worming medication. Some species are more resilient than others, and that is why identifying the species of parasite by doing a fecal flotation is important. Luckily fecal flotations are done on all of our patients during their annual health checks, as well as any time they have diarrhea or other digestive problems. In some regions pets are put on regular monthly or quarterly deworming schedules, but in metro Vancouver screening with regular fecals is preferred to regular deworming. Puppies and kittens are the exception, as well as pregnant females. These should be dewormed regularly as per a schedule your vet designs.
Parasites – Protozoa
Protozoal parasites such as giardia and coccidia have greater potential to cause disease and aren’t always as easy to treat as worms. The importance of diagnosing these conditions accurately is a major reason why we rely on fecal flotations instead of empirical de-worming in our pets. It is important that your veterinarian can pick a medication that is safe for your pet, will be effective, and will minimize the likelihood of drug resistance developing in the parasites.