The most common intestinal parasites seen at Cameron Veterinary Clinic in our dogs and cats are Giardia and tapeworms, more specifically Taenia pisiformis and Dipylidium caninum.
Giardia is a flagellated protozoan that causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and often times diminished appetite and lethargy. Giardia is transmitted by contaminated feces, either directly (eating contaminated stool from wildlife, etc.) or indirectly (drinking contaminated water, rolling in contaminated stool then licking their fur and ingesting the parasite). This parasite is zoonotic, meaning transmission from animal to human and visa versa can occur. The protozoan invades the intestinal cells of the host, which ultimately are destroyed during replication of the protozoan. This massive destruction of the intestinal cells reduces nutrient absorption thereby causing gastrointestinal upset resulting in diarrhea and vomiting.
Treatment is typically easy, either by starting an oral antibiotic (more specifically Metronidazole) or a dewormer (Fenbendazole) protocol. The big challenge is cleaning the environment of the protozoan to prevent re- infection. This is where most time is spent when dealing with Giardia infections. There are a small percentage (~7%) of patients that can be carriers of Giardia and not show clinical signs.
Is that rice on my pet’s hair? Probably not. More likely it is a tapeworm segment. The adult tapeworm (Taenia pisiformis and Dipylidium canium) release white to tan oblong “egg packets” that migrate out the anus that look alot like a grain of rice. T. pisiformis’s lifecycle requires a rabbit, which often our domestic pets either eat or have major contact with, acquiring this tapeworm. D. caninum is transmitted by fleas. The domestic pet eats the flea with something else it is eating and acquires the tapeworm. Typically tapeworm diagnosis is made by observation of these “egg packets” on the pet’s hair or by running a fecal floatation.
The preferred treatment is a drug called Praziquantel. This drug is in the heartworm preventative that we now carry, Interceptor Plus. This product also treats hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms. If your dog is on heartworm preventative that you’ve gotten from Cameron Veterinary Clinic, the dog is being prophylactically treated for tapeworms and other intestinal worms while it is on heartworm preventative. Treatment is curative but re-infection is possible if the patient goes untreated for fleas or continues to have contact with infected rabbits.
Testing is fairly straightforward regarding intestinal parasites: a fecal sample (1 gram minimal) is “floated” in the lab and examined for eggs (ova) under the microscope. This test is run in our state of the art in-clinic lab, usually with results in as little as 15 minutes, depending on the work-load of the lab, at a cost of approximately $28.00.