Okaw Veterinary Clinic

140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953

(217)253-3221

www.okawvetclinic.com

Worms and Other Internal Parasites that Infect Pets 


    
    

What are Heartworms? Can my pet get them? Can I get them? 

What are Tapeworms? Can my pet get them? Can I get them?

What are Roundworms? Can my pet get them? Can I get them?

What are Hookworms? Can my pet get them? Can I get them?

What are Whipworms? Can my pet get them? Can I get them?

What is Toxoplasma? Can my pet get them? Can I get them? What if I am pregnant?

What is Coccidia? Can my pet get them? Can I get them?

What are Pinworms? Can my pet get them? Can I get them?

What are Ear mites? Can my pet get them? Can I get them?

 

Heartworms



Heartworms are a type of worm that are transmitted by mosquitos. Your dog and cat can become infected. People are rarely affected. Heartworm disease is a serious disease. Every pet should take heartworm prevention. Prevention is given monthly year round and can be a liquid applied on the back or a pill your pet eats. Revolution, Heartgard and Interceptor are a few examples of heartworm preventatives. Many of the heartworm preventatives also prevent other intestinal parasites. Pets are tested before heartworm prevention is dispensed and then again every year as recommended by the American Heartworm Society. Even pets who live in the house are at risk. A mosquito can bite your pet when he or she goes outside to the bathroom or goes with you on an errand. Mosquitos can also come in the house and bite you and your pet.

The mosquito must bite your pet in order for your pet to become infected. Pets can not give it to each other by playing together. The life of a heartworm has many stages. A mosquito bites a pet and will suck blood and baby heartworms (microfilaria) from the dog. The mosquito then flies away. The microfilaria undergo two growth stages and migrate to the mouth of the mosquito. The microfilaria are injected into your pet when the mosquito bites your pet. The microfilaria migrate to the right ventricle of your pet's heart. They attach to the lining of the heart and grow into adult heartworms. The adult heartworms can then start breeding and producing more microfilaria. Female worms can grow to 14 inches in length and can live for 7 years. 

Adult heartworms will grow and block the flow of blood through the heart. The microfilaria migrate throughout the body, including the lungs. This causes many of the symptoms of heartworm disease. Some of the symptoms include labored breathing, tiring easily, coughing, collapse, and difficulty walking. A dog with Heartworm disease is treatable. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for cats at this time. If you suspect your pet may have heartworm, bring him or her in and we will do a test while you wait. The test only takes 10 minutes. And if your pet does test positive, we will treat your pet with two injections. Your pet will need to stay in the hospital for a few days for monitoring. It is important for your pet that he or she stays quiet for several days after the injections. If the pet becomes excited, many worms can dislodge and can cause a clot in the heart, lungs or brain. 

People are rarely affected by heartworms. The immune system detects and finds the microfilaria and then kills them. People who have a low functioning immune system can become infected. However, people do not have adult worms in their heart. Usually the microfilaria migrate in the body. The immune system will eventually kill the worms and create a cyst around them, walling the worm away from the body.

Map Showing the Number of heartworm positive cases clinics have seen.

 

 

                           Video of a Heartworm larva

          


For more information visit:
AVMA website
Pets and Parasites
American Heartworm Society

*
Heartworm photo and map courtesy of American Heartworm Society


Tapeworms



Tapeworms are a type of parasitic worm that can be transmitted by fleas, rodents and rabbits. Pets and people can become infected. We usually see tapeworms in a pet who has had fleas in the past year or who currently has fleas. We may also find tapeworms if your cat or dog eats small rodents. We do not have a pill to prevent your pet from getting tapeworms. The best way to prevent the worms is to keep your pet free of fleas and prevent them from eating small rodents. Pets should be given flea prevention year round. If you choose not to use prevention during the winter, you should give it until November and restart it the first of March. Flea populations go down in winter, but may still be alive under your house, in the basement or garage and other sheltered areas. Flea prevention can be a liquid applied to the back or a pill your pet eats. Most flea medications last one month. Frontline, Revolution and Advantage are a few examples of flea preventatives. See our page about fleas for more flea information.

Tapeworms consist of a head (scolex) and segments (proglottids). Tape worms can be several feet long and have hundreds of segments. Each segment contains an egg. Tapeworms are asexual, they do not require a mate to produce offspring. The life cycle of most tapeworms reqire a intermediate host like the flea, rodents and rabbits. A pet who has tapeworms may poop a few segments out or the segments may crawl out of the rectum. An intermediate host will eat the segment, which contains the egg. Then your pet eats the flea or rodent. The intermediate host is digested and the tapeworm is released and attaches to the digestive tract. It grows here and begins producing more segments. 

The tapeworm absorbs nutrients from your pet, which causes your pet to become sick if he or she has several worms. Your pet may tire easily or may always hungry. When your pet has several worms, the worms can cause a blockage in the digestive tract. Food is not able to go through the stomach and intestines as it normally would. This can cause your pet to vomit or have diarrhea. You may see the segments in your pet's stool or in the hair around the anus. The segments are white and are the size of a grain of rice. When they are first released from the body they will move. These are usually seen on stool or on your pet just after he or she poops. The air will dry the segment and it will shrink slightly. These are usually seen stuck in your pet's hair or on furniture. If you suspect your pet has tapeworms bring your pet, a stool sample and any segments you find. We will run a test on the stool and identify the segments. Based on this, we will dispense medication for your pet. If your pet is not treated, he or she may die from tapeworms. Puppies and kittens are more likely to die if they are not treated. We will also check for fleas and recommend treating any fleas as well. Always pick up your pet's stool to prevent reinfection.

People may also become infected with tapeworms. Always wash your hands after touching your pet or his or her stool, especially before you eat. Watch to make sure small children do not get into stool or the litter box. Wash their hands frequently as well. Most human tapeworms are not from exposure to a pet with tapeworms. Most tapeworms are a result of eating raw or under cooked meat. Always wash your hands and the preparation area when you are handling raw meat. Always cook your meat to a temperature above 135 degrees. Some tapeworms are much more of a concern than others. The tapeworm larva of Echinococcus granulosus causes cysts in people. These cysts are usually in the liver, but can also be in the lungs, spleen, central nervous system, bones and other areas. If these cysts rupture, the person can die from a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylactic shock. The tapeworm larva of Echinococcus multiocularis also cause cysts. These cysts are also usually found in the liver. The cysts act like a malignant tumor. The mortality rate is very high. Ninty three percent of the patients die within 10 years of diagnosis.

For more information visit:  Pets and Parasites



Roundworms

   


Roundworms are a type of parasitic worm that a pet gets by ingesting a roundworm egg. People and pets can be infected. Prevention is given monthly year round and can be a liquid applied on the back or a pill your pet eats. Revolution, Heartgard and Interceptor are a few examples of the monthly prevention. Another way to prevent your pet from becoming infected is to not allow your pet to eat another animal's stool. 

Roundworms look similar to earthworms, but are white and smaller. They also resemble spagetti. The life cycle of a roundworm is much more simple than the heartworm or tapeworm life cycle. Roundworms do not require an intermediate host. A pet who has worms will poop and deposit eggs in the yard. The worm in the eggs start to mature into a second stage while still in the protective egg. Your pet will pick up the eggs in a few ways. Your pet may eat the stool or step in it and lick his or her foot clean. The stool can disintegrate over time and leave the eggs behind. The area may appear clean, but it is still contaminated. Your pet can step in this area and pick up the eggs. However the pet eats the egg, the egg coating is digested and the baby worm is free. The worm then migrates around in the body. They need to go to the lungs in order to complete their development. Once in the lungs, the worms continue to grow and then are coughed up and then swallowed by your pet. The worms attach to the lining of the digestive tract and mature and begin to reproduce. The female worms produce eggs that are released back into the environment. One female can lay 200,000 eggs during her life. Eggs can stay infective for years. The eggs can only be destroyed by fire. 

A mother dog or cat can pass the roundworms to her puppies and kittens while she is pregnant. The larva can enter the baby through the placenta. Puppies and kittens can also become infected when they nurse. The larva pass into the milk and the baby drinks the milk and larva are also. This is how many puppies and kittens can be infected. They often have fat bellies. They are "fat" because they are full of worms.
 
The roundworms can cause severe abdominal pain and difficulty breathing when the worms are migrating through his or her body. The roundworms absorbs nutrients from your pet, which causes your pet to tire easily or always be hungry. Your pet digestive tract can become blocked by the worms. Food is not able to go through the stomach and intestines as it normally would. This can cause your pet to vomit or have diarrhea. Pets will also get a "pot belly" from the hundreds of worms in its stomach. When your pet has many worms, you may see them in the stool. Your pet will also vomit some of the worms. If you see a worm or believe your pet has worms, bring in your pet, any worms and also a stool sample. We will run a test on the stool and identify the worms. Based on this, we will dispense medication for your pet. If your pet is not treated, he or she may die from roundworms. Puppies and kittens are more likely to die if they are left untreated. Always pick up your pet's stool to prevent reinfection. Roundworm eggs are released into the environment when a pet poops. When you remove the stool, you are also removing the roundworm eggs.

People may also become infected with roundworms. Always wash your hands after touching your pet or his or her stool, especially before you eat. Watch to make sure small children do not get into stool or the litter box. Wash their hands frequently as well. Most human roundworm infections are not from pets. Most of the cases are children chewing on or eating contaminated grass, dirt, mulch or other contaminated objects. The worms may go into your intestines and mature there. They often migrate around in your body and cause visceral larval migrans. The larva are moving into your lungs, liver, eyes, brain and other organs. This can cause fever, enlarged organs, infections, blindness and sometimes a fatal neurologic disease. Baylisascaris procyonis, the raccoon roundworm, can go into the brain and eyes of people. This can cause a potentially lethal infection in humans. A few people have died from this disease. To help keep you and your pets safe from this worm, discourage raccoons from visiting your home. Keep garbage cans in the garage or house. If you can not bring your trash cans in, secure the lids with tarp straps. Keep bird feeders out of a raccoon's reach. Do not leave any dog or cat food outside.

For more information visit: Pets and Parasites

*Photo of roundworm courtesy of CAPC




Hookworms

 


Hookworms are a type of parasitic worm your pet can get by eating the hookworm egg. People and pets can be infected. Prevention is given monthly year round as a pill your pet eats. Heartgard, Interceptor and Sentinel are a few examples of the monthly prevention. Another way to prevent your pet from becoming infected is to not allow your pet to eat another animal's stool. Also do not allow your pet to walk in an area where other animals have pooped.

Hookworms are smaller than roundworms. They are white and are less than 2 inches long. The hookworm life cycle also does not need an intermediate host. A pet who has worms will poop and deposit eggs in the yard. The eggs will then hatch and the larva crawl around. Your pet can then become infected in a few different ways. You pet can eat the larva when he or she eats grass or licking their paws after being outside. The larva can also burrow throungh your pet's skin. A mother dog or cat can pass the hookworms to her puppies and kittens while she is pregnant. The larva can enter the baby through the placenta. Puppies and kittens can also become infected when they nurse. The larva pass into the milk and the baby drinks the milk and larva are also. This is how many puppies and kittens can be infected. However the larva enters your pet's body, the larva migrate around in the body. The worms attach to the lining of the digestive tract and mature and begin to reproduce. The female worms produce eggs that are released back into the environment. One female can lay 20,000 eggs during her life.

You may want to think of hookworms as leeches. Hookworms attach to the intestines and drink blood. Your pet may tire easily and have pale gums because your pet is anemic from blood loss. The worms also irritate the intestines and cause diarrhea and pain. The diarrhea is black and tarry. The dark color is caused by the digested blood from the worms. Your pet's intestines will also digest the blood leaking from around the hookworms. The migrating larva can also cause damage to the internal organs as they move toward the intestines. You will usually not see the adult worms in your pet's stool.  If you believe your pet has worms, bring in your pet and a stool sample. We will run a test on the stool. Based on this, we will dispense medication for your pet. If your pet is not treated, he or she may die from hookworms. Puppies and kittens are more likely to die if they are left untreated. Always pick up your pet's stool to prevent reinfection. Hookworm eggs are released into the environment when a pet poops. When you remove the stool, you are also removing the hookworm eggs and preventing them from hatching. 

People may also become infected with hookworms. Always wash your hands after touching your pet or his or her stool, especially before you eat. Watch to make sure small children do not get into stool or the litter box. Wash their hands frequently as well. Always wear shoes when you go outside, especially in an area where other animals may walk or poop. Most human infection is caused by the larva penetrating the skin. Hookworm larva crawl around under the skin and cause cutaneous larva migrans, also known as creeping eruptions or plumber's itch. The larva leave trails through the skin as they move. The larva's movement causes intense itching, especially at night when they are more active. Hookworms also cause eosinophilic enteritis in people. The worms attach to your intestines and cause a fever and abdominal pain. Beaches are often the source of human infection. It is thought that up to 50% of human cases have originated at the beach. Always wear shoes when you are at the beach.
 

       Magnification of the Hookworm's mouth          
       (Notice the hooks)

            


          Cutaneous Larval Migrans

              
             
For more information visit: Pets and Parasites

*top photo of hookworm courtesy of CAPC
*bottom photos of hookworms courtesy of the CDC

Whipworms


Whipworms are a parasitic worm that dogs can become infected with if they eat the egg. Cats are rarely affected by whipworms. Prevention is given monthly year round as a pill your pet eats. Interceptor and Sentinel are the only preventatives today that will keep your dog from becoming infected. Another way to prevent your pet from becoming infected is to not allow your pet to eat another animal's stool. Also do not allow your pet to walk in an area where other animals have pooped.

Whipworms are smaller than hookworms. They are white and are less than an inch long. The whipworm life cycle also does not need an intermediate host. A pet who has worms will poop and deposit eggs in the yard. The eggs will start to develop into the second stage. Your pet will pick up the eggs in a few ways. Your pet may eat the stool or step in it and lick his or her foot clean. The stool can disintegrate over time and leave the eggs behind. The area may appear clean, but it is still contaminated. Your pet can step in this area and pick up the eggs. However the pet eats the egg, the egg coating is digested and the baby worm is free. The worm then migrates around in the body. The worms travel to the digestive tract and attach in the cecum. The cecum is similar to our appendix, only bigger. The female worms produce eggs that are released back into the environment. One female can lay 2,000 eggs during her life. Eggs can stay infective for years. 

The whipworms absorb nutrients from your dog. You may notice your dog is more tired or is always hungry. The whipworms also irritate your pets digestive tract. The digestive tract may become blocked by the worms. Food is not able to go through the stomach and intestines as it normally would. This can cause your pet to vomit or have diarrhea. You may see blood in the diarrhea. Severe infections with whipworms can also cause lameness. If you believe your pet has worms, bring in your pet and a stool sample. We will run a test on the stool to identify the worms. Based on this, we will dispense medication for your pet. Whipworms are harder to treat because they live in the cecum. The pouch helps protect them from the medication. If your pet is not treated, he or she may die from whipworms. Puppies and kittens are more likely to die if they are left untreated. Always pick up your pet's stool to prevent reinfection. Whipworm eggs are released into the environment when a pet poops. When you remove the stool, you are also removing the whipworm eggs.

For more information, visit: Pets and Parasites

 *Photo of whipworm courtesy of CAPC



Toxoplama


Toxoplasma gondii is a parasitic potozoan that pets can become infected with if they eat the oocyst (egg). Cats are the only animal that will shed the oocysts in their stool. People are affected by toxoplasma. We do not have a preventative medication at this time. Prevent your pet from becoming infected by not allowing your pet to eat cats' stool. Do not allow your pet to hunt and eat mice, squirrels and other small animals. Also do not allow your pet to walk in an area where cats have pooped. Most, but not all, cats will bury their stool. Cats bury their stool in soft soil or sand, or in leaves and grass.

Toxoplasma is a mircoscopic, one celled organism. They must live in a cell of the host in order to survive and reproduce. The coccidia life cycle does not need an intermediate host. Toxoplasma can replicate in any animal or human. Toxoplasma can only make oocysts if it is living in a cat. A cat who has toxoplasma will poop and deposit oocysts in the yard. Your pet will pick up the oocysts in a few ways. Your pet may eat the stool or step in it and lick his or her foot clean. The stool can disintegrate over time and leave the oocysts behind. The area may appear clean, but it is still contaminated. Your pet can step in this area and pick up the oocysts. Your pet may eat infected cockroaches, flies and rodents. However the pet eats the oocyst, the oocyst coating is digested and the toxoplasma are free. The toxoplasma migrate around in the body. They have been found in the nerves, lungs, liver and muscles. They need to travel to the digestive tract of a cat to reproduce and create oocysts. The cat will deposit oocysts when it poops. The oocysts then take two to three days to sporulate (become infective). The oocysts can survive in the environment for a year. If you have a dog, rabbit, or other animal, toxoplasma replicates (makes identical copies) to produce more parasites within the body. Toxoplasma will replicate many times. As the pet becomes full of parasites, its immune system will detect the toxoplasma. To protect itself, toxoplasma will form cysts, a protective wall surrounding the parasite. Your pet can become infected if he or she eats raw or undercooked meat containing cysts.

The toxoplasma damage the cells when they envade and reproduce or replicate inside them. Your pet may show varing syptoms depending where the parasite is, or may show no symptoms. You may see difficulty breathing, anorexia, high fever, weight loss, blindness, incoordination and seizuring. If you believe your pet has toxoplasma, bring in your pet. We will run a test on the pet's blood. Based on this, we will dispense medication for your pet. If your pet is not treated, he or she may die from toxoplasma. Pregnant dogs and cats will often have stillborn babies, especially kittens. If the babies do survive, they often have severe lung, liver and brain damage. Puppies and kittens are more likely to die if they are left untreated.

People can also be infected with toxoplasma. Women who are pregnant should be especially aware of toxoplasma. Exposure to this parasite can cause severe birth defects. Always wash your hands after touching your pet or his or her stool, especially before you eat. Watch to make sure small children do not get into stool or the litter box. Wash their hands frequently as well. Most human infection is caused by handling and eating undercooked pork, beef, poultry and mutton. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat. Cook your meat over 151 degrees. Cover childrens' sand boxes to prevent cats from pooping in the sand. Wear gloves while gardening to prevent picking up the oocysts. Cat litter boxes are also a place where you can become infected. Always clean the box daily. The oocysts need two to three days to become infective. By cleaning the box daily, you will not have infective oocysts. Pregnant women should not clean the litter box. If no one else is available to clean the litter box, clean it daily and wear a mask and latex gloves, then wash your hands. Pregnant women should always wear gardening gloves. Pregnant women should wear latex gloves when preparing meat and thoroughly cook meat. 

For more information, visit: Center of Disease Control

*Photo of toxoplasma courtesy of CAPC



Coccidia


Coccidia are a parasitic protozoan that pets can become infected with if they eat the oocyst (egg). People are not affected by coccidia. We do not have a preventative medication at this time. Prevent your pet from becoming infected by not allowing your pet to eat another animal's stool. Also do not allow your pet to walk in an area where other animals have pooped.

Coccidia are mircoscopic, one celled organisms. They must live in a cell of the host in order to survive and reproduce. The coccidia life cycle does not need an intermediate host. A pet who has coccidia will poop and deposit oocysts in the yard. The eggs will start to develop into eight infective baby coccidia. Your pet will pick up the oocysts in a few ways. Your pet may eat the stool or step in it and lick his or her foot clean. The stool can disintegrate over time and leave the oocysts behind. The area may appear clean, but it is still contaminated. Your pet can step in this area and pick up the oocysts. However the pet eats the oocyst, the oocyst coating is digested and the eight baby coccidia are free. The coccidia travel to the digestive tract and invade a cell in the lining. Once inside the cell they mature and start to reproduce. The oocysts are released back into the environment. 

The coccidia destroy the intestine lining cells when they envade them. The lining of the intestine is no longer intact and bacteria can move into the tissue of the intestine. The intestine lining becomes irritate. This causes pain and diarrhea. If your pet has many coccidia, you may see blood in the diarrhea. If you believe your pet has coccidia bring in your pet and a stool sample. We will run a test on the stool. Based on this, we will dispense medication for your pet. If your pet is not treated, he or she may die from coccidia. Puppies and kittens are more likely to die if they are left untreated. Always pick up your pet's stool to prevent reinfection. Oocysts are released into the environment when a pet poops. When you remove the stool, you are also removing the oocysts.          


For more information, visit: Pets and Parasites

*Photo of coccidia courtesy of CAPC



Pinworms


Pinworms are a parasitic worm that pets can become infected with if they eat the egg. Pinworms are species specific. This means that only dogs can get it from dogs, only cats can get it from cats, etc. We do not have a prevention medication at this time. Prevent your pet from becoming infected by not allowing your pet to eat another animal's stool. Also do not allow your pet to walk in an area where other animals have pooped.

Pinworms are about the same size as a whipworm. The whipworm life cycle also does not need an intermediate host. A pet who has worms will poop and deposit eggs in the yard. Your pet will pick up the eggs in a few ways. Your pet may eat the stool or step in it and lick his or her foot clean. The stool can disintegrate over time and leave the eggs behind. The area may appear clean, but it is still contaminated. Your pet can step in this area and pick up the eggs. However the pet eats the egg, the egg coating is digested and the baby worm is free. The worm then migrates around in the body. The worms travel to the digestive tract. The worms grow to mature in the large intestine. The female worms will migrate to the rectum to lay eggs. 

The pinworms absorb nutrients from your pet. You may notice your pet is more tired or is always hungry. The pinworms moving to the rectum cause itching. Your pet may lick the area or scoot on carpet or furniture. If you believe your pet has worms, bring in your pet and a stool sample. We will run a test on the stool to identify the worms. Based on this, we will dispense medication for your pet.  Puppies and kittens are more likely to die if they are left untreated. Always pick up your pet's stool to prevent reinfection. Pinworm eggs are released into the environment when a pet poops. When you remove the stool, you are also removing the pinworm eggs. 

People can not get pinworms from pets. Pinworms are species specific. People can get pinworm only from other people. Children can often become infected when they are around other children. Always make sure your children wash their hands after playing and using the bathroom. Always have them wash their hands before eating. 

For more information, visit: Center of Disease Control

*Photo of pinworm courtesy of CDC

 

Ear mites

 

Ear mites are mites that live in your pet's ear canal. Ear mites can be prevented by using a monthly medication, such as Revolution. Prevent your pet from getting ear mites by keeping him or her away from other animals and areas where other animals have been sleeping.

Ear mites are very small, almost microscopic. Mites lay eggs in the ears of an affected animal. About 2 - 4 weeks later the eggs hatch into larva. The larva grow until they are adults. The adults live in the ear and can crawl onto other animals when they are close to the head. The ear mites can also crawl onto bedding and go onto another animal when it lays in the same bedding.

Ear mites live by drinking your pet's blood, which is irritating, and causes your pet to shake his or her head and to scratch at his or her ears. You can also see dark debris in your pet's ears. This debris is dried blood. If you think your pet has ear mites, bring him or her in to see us. We will take a sample of the debris in your pet's ears. We look at this debris under a microscope and search for mites or mite eggs. The video below is of a sample we took from one of our patients. This is what we saw under the microscope.

              Video of ear mites under a microscope

        

For more information, visit: CAPC

*Photo of ear mite courtesy of CAPC