Monday, January 7, 2013

Watch Out for Winter Worms

At CanadaVet.com, this winter we want to warn pet owners about four parasitic worms that may be wreaking havoc inside their pet’s organs. These worms are worrisome, not only because they cause serious health problems in our pets, but many of them also pose a zoonotic risk - where the infection can be transferred from pet to pet owner. The four main types of gastrointestinal worms we need to watch out for include: Hookworm, Tapeworm, Roundworm and Whipworm.
Hookworm

Description:
Hookworms are grayish white in color and they are shaped like a hook.

How Infection Occurs:
Hookworms can penetrate your pet’s skin, leading to infection. So if your pet comes in contact with contaminated feces, is exposed to soil contaminated with larvae or hunts infected animals; your pet is at risk. Hookworm is usually transmitted to puppies via an infected bitch’s milk.

Symptoms:
Hookworms feed on your pet’s blood by latching on to the intestinal wall. This can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, intestinal bleeding and severe anemia which may result in death.

Zoonotic Risk:
Yes, hookworm can be transferred to humans via skin contact or ingestion of contaminated soil. This is more common in warm, humid climates.

Tapeworm

Description:
The Tapeworm’s body is long and consists of multiple, flat segments.

How Infection Occurs:
Typically, pets contract tapeworm from another parasite – fleas. Firstly, a flea may ingest a tapeworm egg. A tapeworm then develops inside the flea. Many pets eat fleas as they try to groom themselves. So your pet could easily ingest a flea infected with tapeworm.

Symptoms:
Tapeworms hook on to your pet’s small intestine to feed. This will lead to your pet having problems absorbing their food, diarrhea or scooting (perianal irritation). 

Zoonotic Risk:
Tapeworms do pose a zoonotic risk – especially for children. This is because children in particular are at risk of accidently ingesting an infected flea. The infection can also be transmitted through ingestion of infected feces or soil that has been contaminated with eggs.

Roundworm

Description:
Roundworms are round in shape and resemble a piece of string. They can grow up to approximately 6 inches.

How Infection Occurs:
Roundworm is transmitted when your pet ingests stools or soil infected with worm eggs. Pets can also contract the disease when hunting infected prey. Puppies may be born with roundworm if their mothers are infected.

Symptoms:
Roundworm larvae migrate through your pets liver and lungs and live as adults in the small intestine. This causes diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy and a pot-bellied appearance. Large numbers of roundworm may also block the intestine causing constipation. The infection is the most severe in puppies, as it may result in respiratory disease, stunted growth or death.

Zoonotic Risk:
Yes, young children are at particular risk if exposed to contaminated soil or feces. In humans, the migrating roundworm larvae may reach the brain or eyes, causing blindness.

Whipworm

Description:
Whipworms are shaped like a whip, being very thin at the front and thick at the back.

How Infection Occurs:
Whipworm is contracted when pets consume water, food, soil or feces that have been contaminated with whipworm eggs. Whipworm eggs can survive in the environment for years.

Symptoms:
The whipworm’s mouth is structured like a spear to puncture the wall of the large intestine. They feed on your pet’s blood, causing dehydration, anemia and diarrhea.

Zoonotic Risk:
Fortunately, whipworms pose no zoonotic risk so just pets, not pet owners, are at risk.

Obviously, worm control measures should be taken to protect our pets from these dangerous parasites. A range of wormers are available including Drontal Plus All-wormer for Dogs and Profender All-wormer for Cats. So stop worrying about your pet and start a worm control program on your furry-friend this winter.

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