Intestinal parasites and screening for them

I’ve worked with animals for a long time and it wasn’t until I was looking up different animal awareness dates and weeks that I found out about International Pooper Scooper week. It was established to educate pet owners on the importance of cleaning up after their dogs. I could get on a “soapbox” about the importance of sanitation for the health of humans, pets and the water table but I’m not going to. Instead, I would like to discuss intestinal parasite screenings (fecals) and the intestinal parasites that you and your pets can get.

Parasites can cause the following harm to your pets:

  • allergic reactions
  • blood loss and anemia
  • damage to internal organs
  • nutrient loss and release of toxins into the body

Parasites can cause the following harm to you and your family:

  • digestive problems
  • liver and lung damage
  • partial or total blindness
  • itchy, skin lesions

Intestinal parasite screenings are recommended yearly unless your pet spends a lot of time outdoors or your dog goes to dog parks and/or doggie daycare. To perform an intestinal parasite screening, we only need a small feces sample the size of a grape that is less than 24 hours old. There is a special solution that is mixed with the feces that when it is spun in a centrifuge, it will separate the microscopic parasites from other fecal material.


Although there are six common intestinal parasites, only 2  can be visible in their adult life cycle.  Tape worms and Round worms are the two parasites that can be seen in their adult form. Often there are no signs of infection of these two parasites. That is why it is so important you bring a sample to the vet hospital to be examined. It is not recommended to treat for parasites unless there are actual parasites present because health officials are starting to see drug-resistant organisms due to over-medicating.


Adult Tape worm segments look like pieces of rice or sesame seeds around the anus or in areas where your pet sleeps a lot. Typically, cats and dogs get Tape worms from fleas. Cats can get Tape worms from eating mice as well. We recommend quality flea prevention products to prevent the likelihood of your pet being infected by Tape worms.


Adult Round worms look like spaghetti noodles. Puppies and kittens can get Round worms from their mother.


The other 4 unseen parasites are Whip worms, Hook worms, Coccidia and giardia.


Whip worms can be found in contaminated environments. Some dogs will not show any signs of infection, others will have diarrhea with streaks of blood and mucus in it.


Hook worms can be transmitted from mother to their offspring. Hook worms can also penetrate the skin of dogs, cats and humans from contaminated ground. Animals infected with Hook worms can appear weak and pale. Humans can have red, itchy lesions where the hook worms penetrated their skin.


Coccidia is a single celled organism that can cause bloody and severe diarrhea. It can be transmitted from infected dirt or feces. This is most typically seen in young puppies and kittens.


Giardia comes from contaminated water or feces. It can cause loose stool, diarrhea and vomiting.


Each treatment for intestinal parasites varies depending on what type of parasite is present. Most treatments are oral medications except for a topical medication for cats.


There are a few ways to protect your family and pets:

  • Remove and properly dispose of your pet’s feces as soon as possible.
  • Have your family avoid areas that have been soiled with animal stool.
  • Don’t allow your pet to lick your mouth.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after playing with your pet and after outdoor activities.
  • Keep your pet on a quality flea and tick preventative.

Let’s celebrate International Pooper Scooper week by bringing in a sample of your pet’s feces to check today!


Photos came from



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