Q: What is a parasite?

A: A parasite is an organism that lives at the expense of another living being. In our pets, parasites usually take the form of intestinal worms (internal parasites) and fleas and ticks (external parasites).


Q: How can I tell if my pet has worms?

A: Some parasites, such as tapeworms, are visible to the naked eye, but others must be detected under the microscope. If you will bring in a stool specimen, we will be glad to examine it microscopically to see if your pet has worms.


Q: What are heartworms, and how do I tell if my pet has them?

A: Heartworms are parasites that live in the animal’s heart or in the large blood vessels on the lungs. To test for heartworms, we draw a small blood sample and examine it under the microscope or run a special test. Heartworms can be prevented easily using medication, but we have to be sure your pet tests negative before beginning the prevention.


Q: What causes heartworms?

A: Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites a dog that was infected with heartworms and then bites your uninfected cat or dog, your pet could become infected. We highly recommend that all dogs take medication for heartworm prevention to keep infection from happening. Heartworm preventive medications available for dogs and cats. Testing your pet for heartworm infection and keeping him on heartworm prevention will prevent heartworms from becoming a problem.


Q: Can I catch anything by cleaning out my cat’s litter box?

A: Toxoplasma oocysts pass out in the feces of cats and can cause problems if transmitted to pregnant women. The resulting condition, toxoplasmosis, is why pregnant women and immune suppressed individuals should not clean out litter boxes. With normal sanitary precautions, cleaning out litter boxes poses no problem for other people.


Q: Where do adult pets get worms?

A: Most intestinal parasites are transmitted in the pet’s stool. When a dog steps in contaminated stool or ingests the eggs in the stool, the parasite enters his body. Keeping the yard clean of stool and having your pet checked for worms regularly will prevent most parasitic infestations.


Q: My dog has been scooting his behind on the floor. Does that mean he has worms?

A: Scooting can be a sign of tapeworms. We recommend that you examine your pet closely for signs of tapeworm infection. Tapeworm segments pass out of the pet’s rectum and often catch in the fur on the legs and tail. If tapeworms are not the problem, the doctor will look for another cause, such as impacted or infected anal glands.


Q: What are these little white segments I’ve been noticing on the fur on my pet’s legs and tail?

A: You are most likely seeing tapeworm segments that are becoming stuck in the hair when they pass out in the bowel movement. We recommend that you bring us a sample segment, if possible, so we can determine which kind of tapeworm your pet has. We can then de-worm your pet and help you prevent them from getting them again.

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