1. To prevent spread to humans, especially children, pregnant women, and the elderly or immune compromised. While not common, roundworms and hookworms can spread to humans causing skin lesions and, in severe cases, blindness and brain lesions. It is usually children who acquire these infections, by playing in the dirt and then putting their hands in their mouth. In addition, protozoal parasites such as giardia, toxoplasmosis, and coccidia can be spread to humans and other pets, causing GI upset and diarrhea.
2. To keep your pet healthy. Parasitic infections do not always cause obvious symptoms until the parasite load is heavy. However, they can cause subtle symptoms such as picky appetite, intermittent soft stool,”poor thrift”, anal itching, and a dull coat.
3. In the Treasure Valley, giardia is common. In the Treasure Valley of Idaho, giardia is a common parasite. Symptoms can be absent, but then become evident in times of stress or secondary to other causes of GI upset. You may end up with a pet with acute onset of severe diarrhea, sometimes even bloody diarrhea.
Some other information to note:
1. In some cases, it is best to perform fecal checks twice yearly. Examples of situations where this would be beneficial would include pets that live on farms, cats that routinely catch rodents, dogs that decide they like to eat stool from other animals, or pets with a history of recurrent giardia or parasites.
2. Even if your pet rarely leaves its property, it can still be at risk. Anytime he or she decides to eat rabbit or cat stool from the yard, snacks on something “not-so-appetizing” at the park, drinks standing water from a puddle, or sniffs the neighbor dog’s hind end in greeting, he or she could contract a parasite. The only extremely low risk animals are indoor-only cats that live in a household where all cats are kept indoors, and where the household dogs are routinely screened for parasites.
3. Monthly heartworm prevention is also helpful, because in addition to preventing heartworm (which is on the rise in the Treasure Valley), it prevents several intestinal worms as well. It does not prevent protozoal parasites or all types of worms, however, which is why routine fecal checks are still important.
If you have any questions about parasites and your pet, as well as other things you can do to prevent spread of parasites to children and other animals, please feel free to call or email us!
Andrea Sparzo, DVM
River City Vet Hospital