Yes, the “ick” factor. But if you love animals, and own a pet, eventuatlly, you WILL come face to face with a nasty bug of one sort or another. The more you know, the healthier your pet will be.
Parasites primarily cause soft stool or diarrhea and sometimes weight loss in dogs, although infected dogs may show no signs of illness at all. This is why we recommend annual microscopic fecal exams. The most important thing you can do to prevent animal parasites from threatening your family's health is to clean up animal waste daily.
Below are common parasites that live in the intestinal tract…
These worms can be transmitted from the mother to the puppies before they are even born. Large numbers of roundworms can block a dog's intestine. Humans (primarily young ones with less-than-perfect hand washing habits) can ingest microscopic eggs after playing in contaminated soil. The eggs mature into larva, which migrate bizarrely through the body, sometimes causing nervous system signs or even blindness.
Ingestion of the eggs of these worms can result in larval migration in people, but they can also be picked up directly through the skin, which causes intensely itchy lesions. A severe hookworm infection can make a dog anemic.
These parasites reproduce by shedding off segments of their body, which then can be seen on the hair under your dog's tail. The segments are short and wiggly at first, and dry to look like rice grains. Dogs get tapeworms by ingesting fleas, usually by hunting rodents or prairie dogs. Tapeworms are easily eliminated with either a shot or a pill. These parasites are not transmitted directly to people.
Giardia is a very common parasite in Colorado. The organisms are prevalent in streams, ponds and standing water, so dogs who hike or swim are at higher risk. Giardia can be difficult to get rid of because it lives deep within the intestine and re-infection is common. Always have a post-treatment fecal sample checked if your dog has been diagnosed with giardia. Current research suggests that direct transmission from dogs to people does not occur with giardia.
These microscopic organisms are more frequently seen in puppies, and can be difficult to treat successfully. The medication for coccidia paralyzes the parasites, which are then removed from the intestine by simple mechanical action. A recheck fecal should be done to assess the effectiveness of treatment.