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Internal Parasites that could harm you and your Puppy
Roundworms Tapeworms
Whipworms Hookworms
Heartworms  
Giardia Coccidia

Roundworms

There are two species of roundworms affecting dogs and puppies: Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina.

Both are treated with the same medication protocol so when eggs are seen on a fecal flotation exam, it is not necessary to determine which species is present.

Roundworm

HOW INFECTION OCCURS:

In dogs, there are four ways by which infection with Toxocara canis occurs:

  • Consuming infective worm eggs from soil in the environment (generally through normal grooming).
  • Nursing from an infected mother dog.
  • Consuming a prey animal (usually rodent) that is carrying developing worms.
  • During embryonic development when an infected mother dog is pregnant (most
    puppies are infected this way).

Note: cats cannot be infected with Toxocara canis.

LIFE AS A ROUNDWORM:

Toxocara canis has one of the most amazing life cycle in the animal kingdom. It is crucial to understand this life cycle if effective treatment is to be pursued.

Calm Dogs

STEP ONE: Toxocara eggs are passed in the host’s feces. If a fecal sample is tested, the eggs can be detected. The embryonic worm develops in the outdoor environment inside its microscopic egg for one month before it becomes able to infect a new host. If environmental conditions are favorable, it takes about a month for the egg to become infective but Toxocara eggs are famous for weathering harsh environmental conditions. Eggs can remain infective for months to years.

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Note: Fresh feces is not infectious.

STEP TWO: The egg containing what is called a “second stage larva” is picked up by a dog or by some other animal. The egg hatches in the new host’s intestinal tract and the young worm burrows its way out of the intestinal tract to encyst in the host’s other body tissues. If the new host is a dog, the life cycle proceeds. If the new host is a member of another species, the larvae wait encysted until the new host is eaten by a dog.

STEP THREE: These second stage larvae can remain encysted happily for years. If the host is a dog, the larvae mostly encyst in the host’s liver. When the time comes to move on, the larvae excyst and migrate to the host’s lungs where they develop into “third stage larvae.” They burrow into the small airways and travel upward towards the host’s throat. A heavy infection can produce a serious pneumonia. When they get to the upper airways, their presence generates coughing. The worms are coughed up into the host’s throat where they are swallowed thus entering the intestinal tract for the second time in their development.

If the host is pregnant, the larvae do not migrate to the lung after they excyst; instead they home to the uterus and infect the unborn puppies. The second stage larvae make their way to the puppies’ lungs to develop into third stage larvae.

If the host is a nursing mother, second stage larvae can migrate to the mammary gland instead of the lung after excysting. Puppies can be infected by drinking their mother’s milk, though, due to the intrauterine cycle described above, the litter would probably already be infected.

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Note: When dogs are dewormed, this affects only worms in the intestinal tract. It does not affect encysted larvae. It is very difficult to prevent mother to puppy transmission and routine deworming is not adequate.

STEP FOUR: Once back in the intestine, the larvae complete their maturation and begin to mate. The first eggs are laid about one week after the fourth stage larvae have arrived in the intestine and about 4-5 weeks after infection has first occurred. From here the cycle repeats.

WHY IS INFECTION BAD?

Roundworm infection can have numerous negative effects. It is a common cause of diarrhea in young animals and can cause vomiting as well. Sometimes the worms themselves are vomited up which can be alarming as they can be quite large which females reaching lengths of up to seven inches. The worms consume the host’s food and can lead to unthriftiness and a classical “pot-bellied” appearance. Very heavy infections can lead to pneumonia as the worms migrate and, if there are enough worms, the intestine can actually become obstructed.

It should also be noted that human infection by this parasite is especially serious (see below). It is important to minimize the contamination of environmental soil with the feces of infected animals so as to reduce the exposure hazard to both humans and other animals.

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HOW DO WE KNOW IF OUR DOG IS INFECTED?

You may not know and this is one of the arguments in favor of regular deworming. Regular deworming is especially recommended for dogs that hunt and might consume the flesh of hosts carrying worm larvae. Puppies are frequently simply assumed to be infected and automatically dewormed.

Of course, there are ways to find out if your dog is infected. If a dog or puppy vomits up a worm, there is a good chance this is a roundworm (especially in a puppy). Roundworms are long, white and described as looking like spaghetti. Tapeworms can also be vomited up but these are flat and obviously segmented. If you are not sure what type of worm you are seeing, bring it to your vet’s office for identification.

Fecal testing for worm eggs is a must for puppies and a good idea for adult dogs having their annual check up. Obviously, if there are worms present, they must be laying eggs in order to be detected but, by and large, fecal testing is a reliable method of detection.

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HOW DO WE GET RID OF ROUNDWORMS?

Numerous deworming products are effective. Some are over the counter and some are prescription. Many flea control and/or heartworm prevention products provide a monthly deworming which is especially helpful in minimizing environmental contamination. Common active ingredients include:

  • Febantel (active ingredient in Drontal and Drontal plus)
  • Pyrantel pamoate (active ingredient in Strongid, Nemex, HeartgardPlus and others)
  • Piperazine (active ingredient in many over the counter products)
  • Fenbendazole (active ingredient in Panacur)
  • Milbemycin Oxime (active ingredient of Interceptor and Sentinel)

There are two important concepts to keep in mind about deworming. Medications essentially anesthetize the worm so that it let’s go of its grip on the host intestine and passes with the stool. Once it has been passed, it cannot survive in the environment and dies.

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This means that you will likely see the worms when they pass so be prepared as they can be quite long and may still be alive and moving when you see them.

The other concept is stems from the fact that larvae in migration cannot be killed by any of these products. After the worms are cleared from the intestine, they will be replaced by new worms completing their migration. This means that a second, and sometimes even a third deworming is needed to keep the intestine clear. The follow-up deworming is generally given several weeks following the first deworming to allow for migrating worms to arrive in the intestine where they are vulnerable.

Do not forget your follow-up deworming.

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Roundworms in Humans

Toxocara canis is the predominant cause of a serious condition called “Visceral Larva Migrans” in humans. Most victims are children. They are infected by inadvertantly consuming worm eggs in soil (typically by getting dirty fingers in their mouths). The worm is not present in its correct host but tries to complete its life cycle anyway. The worm gets lost in the human body (classically in the eye), dies, and generates an extreme inflammatory reaction. If the worm dies within the human eye, blindness usually results.

For this reason, it is important for parents to be aware of this hazard. Proper hand-washing will prevent infection. Monthly pet deworming will reduce environmental contamination. Public leash laws and restriction of dog walking are meant to reduce fecal contamination of public areas. Stray cats should be kept away from children’s sandboxes.

For more information on this subject, please visit one of the Center for Disease Control Web sites on Visceral Larva Migrans at:

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http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/toxocara/factsht_toxocara.htm
(for a fact sheet on Toxocariasis)

or

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/publications/brochures/roundwrm.htm
(h ow to prevent transmission of intestinal roundworms from pets to people)

References:
http://www.marvistavet.com/html/roundworms_in_dogs___puppies.html

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Tapeworms

There are two species of roundworms affecting dogs and puppies: Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina.

Both are treated with the same medication protocol so when eggs are seen on a fecal flotation exam, it is not necessary to determine which species is present.

Tapeworms

The CDC on Dog and Cat Flea Tapeworm:

What is the most common kind of tapeworm dogs and cats get?

The most common tapeworm of dogs and cats in the United States is called Dipylidium caninum (DIE-pih-LID-ee-um K-nine-um). Infection is common and found throughout the world.

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How did my pet get the Dipylidium tapeworm?

By swallowing a flea infected with a tapeworm larvae. A dog or cat may swallow a flea while self-grooming. Once the flea is digested inside the dog or cat, the larval tapeworm is free to develop into an adult tapeworm.

The adult tapeworm is made up of many small segments, called proglottids (pro-GLOT-ids), each about the size of a grain of rice; adult tapeworms may measure 4-28 inches in length. As the tapeworm matures inside the intestines, these segments (proglottids) break off and pass into the stool.

How would I know if my pet has a tapeworm infection?

Although cats and dogs are rarely ill as a result of a Dipylidium tapeworm infection, the proglottids can sometimes be seen crawling near the anus or on the surface of a fresh bowel movement. Proglottids contain tapeworm eggs; these eggs are released into the environment when the proglottid dries out. The dried proglottids are small (about 2 mm), hard and yellowish in color and can sometimes be seen stuck to the hair around the pet's anus.

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What kind of problems do tapeworms cause for the dog?

Tapeworms are not usually harmful to your pet. Weight loss may occur if your pet is heavily infected. Sometimes, an infected dog will "scoot" or drag its anus across the ground or carpet because the segments are irritating to the skin in this area.

Occasionally, a portion of this tapeworm will be passed when the dog vomits. If this happens, a worm several inches in length may be seen.

How is tapeworm infection diagnosed?

Tapeworm infection is usually diagnosed when the moving segments are seen crawling around the anus or in a bowel movement. Dipylidium tapeworm eggs are rarely released into the feces and are therefore not usually detected by routine fecal exams performed by your veterinarian. Because of this, veterinarians depend on you to notify them of possible tapeworm infection in your pet.

Can I get a tapeworm infection from my pet?

Yes. For a person to become infected with Dipylidium, he or she must accidentally swallow an infected flea. Most reported cases involve children. The risk of infection with this tapeworm in humans is low. The most effective way to prevent infections in pets and humans is through flea control. A child who is infected will usually pass proglottids (or what appears as rice) in a bowel movement or find them stuck to the skin around the anal area.

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How is tapeworm infection treated?

Treatment for both animals and humans is simple and very effective. A prescription drug called praziquantel is given, either orally or by injection (pets only). The medication causes the tapeworm to dissolve within the intestines. Since the worm is usually digested before it passes, it may not be visible in your dog's stool. The drugs are generally well-tolerated.

What should I do if I think my child is infected with tapeworms?

See your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.

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How can tapeworm infection be prevented?

  • Control fleas on your pet, and in their indoor and outdoor environments.
  • Have your veterinarian treat your dogs and cats promptly if they have tapeworms.
  • Clean up after your pet, especially in playgrounds and public parks. Bury the feces, or place it in a plastic bag and then put it in the trash.
  • Do not allow children to play in areas that are soiled with pet or other animal feces.
  • Teach children to always wash their hands after playing with dogs and cats, and after playing outdoors.

Reference:

CDC.gov

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