One of the most common questions posed by animal guardians is “How do I know if my pet has worms?” While many guardians will think their pets don’t have worms because the worms are not visually observed, the most accurate way of diagnosing parasitic worm infections in dogs and cats is through microscopic exam of feces performed by the veterinarian. Often special techniques including Zinc Flotation are needed to identify certain parasites such as Giardia. With certain parasites such as tapeworms, animal guardians may see the flat rice-like moving segments typical of this parasite near the pet’s anus or under the tail. Since fleas are the typical carriers of tapeworms, it is important to have dogs and cats on effective year round flea control with products such as Flea4X, Frontline or Advantage.
Symptoms of worm infestations will vary depending upon the type of worm, but may include changes in appetite (either excessive or decreased), varying amounts of diarrhea and/or vomiting, lethargy, pale gums (from anemia), and abdominal distention in severe cases.
Roundworms and hookworms are most commonly seen in young animals, and occasionally may be seen as long spaghetti-looking worms in the stool of heavily infested pets. Roundworms and hookworms are easily identified by routine flotation of stool samples at the veterinary office. Whipworms may be harder to identify in stool samples of infected pets, and in those pets with chronic and/or bloody, mucus-y diarrhea, many veterinarians will treat pets for whipworms with chronic diarrhea, even when worm eggs are not seen.
Fortunately most of the monthly heartworm preventatives now include ingredients to treat and prevent many of these intestinal parasites. That is why it is important for animal guardians to have their pets on monthly heartworm prevention year round.