Dealing With Worms and Diarrhea in Cats and Dogs

When a beloved pet has diarrhea, it can be cause for concern. Diarrhea can be caused by a wide variety of illnesses and situations, but one of the most common causes of diarrhea in cats and dogs is intestinal parasites, or worms. That’s why veterinarians almost always request a stool sample be brought in when the pet has an appointment.

There are several different types of intestinal parasites a dog or cat can get, including roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm, whipworm, giardia, and coccidia. How you deal with a pet with worms is important because some of these parasites can be passed over to humans.

Symptoms of Worm Infestation in Dogs and Cats

In most cases of parasite infestations, patients exhibit similar symptoms, the most common of which is diarrhea. Depending on the severity of the infestation, blood can sometimes be passed with the stool. Other common symptoms include weight loss, dry coat, vomiting (sometimes with worms in the vomit), and malaise.

It’s important to note, however, that not all parasite infestations cause these symptoms. Some infestations, in fact, cause very few or no symptoms at all. Depending on the parasite, it can be possible for the larvae to remain dormant in the pet’s body, only to be activated during a period of stress. For instance, roundworms and hookworms tend to activate in the late stages of pregnancy and thereby infest the puppies and kittens prior to birth.

Why Stool Sample Checks in Dogs and Cats Are Important

In a parasite infestation, early detection and treatment is crucial. If left untreated, worms can cause a variety of serious health problems for a pet. Stool samples are one of the most effective ways of checking for the presence of parasites, because their microscopic eggs will often be contained in the feces. The actual worms themselves do not leave the body unless they are vomited up.

The reason for this is because once they are outside the body, the worms die. But using a simple stool sample, the veterinarian will be able to confirm or rule out the existence of the worms.

Keep in mind that tapeworm eggs do not show up in the feces, but sometimes their segments will. If you think your pet has tapeworms, then look for rice-like segments caught in the fur under their tail and in their stool, as well.

Treating Your Dog or Cat With a De-Wormer

Treating a dog or cat that is infested with intestinal parasites usually involves the administration of de-worming medications. There are several different types of de-worming solutions available, but not all de-wormers treat all types of parasites.

For instance, ivermectin is only good for heartworms. Fenbendazole, on the other hand, can treat pets with roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm, and whipworm. The type of anti-parasitic agent prescribed by the veterinarian is determined by the type of parasite evident in the patient’s body, and the type and size of the pet patient being treated.

Puppies and kittens should be routinely treated with a deworming solution at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age. After that, they should be placed on a monthly heartworm preventive that includes additional protection against several of the more common intestinal parasites.

Prevention Against Re-Contamination in Cats and Dogs

If your pet is being treated for worms, then there are certain steps you should take to help lower their risk of getting re-contaminated. For instance, you should scoop the litter box and clean up the yard after each and every bowel movement. You should also apply a topical year-round flea preventive on your pet, because tapeworms are frequently spread via fleas.

In some cases, the veterinarian may also recommend a disinfectant wash to use on your pet’s hindquarters after each defecation. And because some parasites can be passed from pets to their owners, it is crucial to practice good personal hygiene, like washing your hands every time after handling your pet.

Author: Giano Panzarella