What are Tapeworms?

tapewormTapeworms are flat intestinal worms that are made up of many small segments, each about ¼ – ½” (3-5 mm) long. Unlike roundworms that live freely in the intestinal tract, tapeworms attach to the wall of the small intestine using hook-like mouthparts.

Tapeworms belong to the cestode family of intestinal worms. The most common tapeworm of dogs and cats is Dipylidium caninum.
The adult worms may reach up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length. The
individual segments begin to develop starting behind the head and move down the tapeworm as they gradually mature, finally being shed at the opposite end, either singly or in short chains. These segments, called proglottids, are passed in the feces when an infected dog defecates. They are about 1/8″ (3 mm) long and look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds.
Occasionally they can be seen moving on the hairs around the anus or on the surface of freshly passed feces. As the tapeworm segment dries, it becomes a golden color and eventually breaks open, releasing the fertilized eggs into the environment.

Unlike roundworms, dogs cannot become infected by eating fertilized tapeworm eggs.

Tapeworms must first pass through an intermediate host (a flea) before they can infect a dog.

tapeworm infection 2 TapewormsHow do dogs get tapeworms?

When the infected eggs are released into the environment, they have
to be swallowed by immature flea larvae in the environment. Once inside
the larval flea, the tapeworm egg continues to develop as the flea
matures into an adult flea. During grooming or in response to a flea
bite, a dog can ingest the tapeworm infected flea and complete the life
cycle.

Are tapeworms dangerous for my dog?

Tapeworms do not normally cause serious health problems in dogs. Occasionally dogs will drag their bottoms on the ground, a behavior known as scooting, in order to allay this irritation. Note that scooting can also occur for other reasons such as impacted anal sacs.

 

In puppies, heavy tapeworm infestation can be more serious. Lack of growth, anemia and intestinal blockages can occur. Occasionally, the head of the tapeworm or scolex detaches from the intestinal wall; the entire adult tapeworm will then be passed in the feces or vomited up.

How is a diagnosis made?

Clinical diagnosis is usually made by observing the white mobile tapeworm segments in the feces or crawling around the anus. They often look like grains of rice.

Tapeworm segments are only passed intermittently and therefore are often not diagnosed on routine fecal examination. If you find any segments, white or golden color, bring them to your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

With today’s drugs, treatment is simple and effective. The parasiticide may be given either in the form of tablets or by injection. It causes the parasite to dissolve in the intestines so you normally will not see tapeworms passed in the stool. These drugs are very safe and should not cause any side effects.

 

Is there anything else I should do?tapeworm infection Tapeworms

“Flea control is critical in the management and prevention of tapeworm infection.”

Flea control is critical in the management and prevention of tapeworm
infection. Flea control involves treating the dog and the environment
.Your veterinarian can recommend a safe and effective flea control for
your pet. If your dog lives in a flea-infested environment,
re-infection with tapeworms may occur in as little as two weeks. Since
tapeworm medication is so effective, recurrent tapeworm infections are
almost always due to re-infection from fleas and not failure of the
product.

Can I get tapeworms from my dog?

You cannot get tapeworms directly from your dog. Dipylidium caninum,
the most common canine tapeworm, depends on the flea as the
intermediate host. A person must swallow an infected flea to become
infected. A few cases of tapeworm infection have been reported in
children. Vigorous flea control will also eliminate any risk of children
becoming infected.

Although Dipylidium species are the most common tapeworms in dogs, other cestodes are also important in certain areas.

Taenia species – These are tapeworms that are acquired by eating prey or waste containing the infective larval
stage. These are much larger tapeworms, often up to one yard (one meter) in length. Intermediate hosts include rodents, rabbits, hares and sheep. The intermediate stages develop hydatid cysts in various organs in the intermediate host. There are effective medications that will eliminate Taenia infections in dogs. If your dog eats prey such as rodents or rabbits, re-infection can occur with passage of tapeworm segments in 6-8 weeks.

Echinococcus species – These are very small tapeworms, consisting of only three or four segments, and are usually
less than 3/8″ (1 cm) in length. Intermediate hosts can be sheep, horses and occasionally man. In humans the disease is called
hydatidosis, hydatid disease, or hydatid cyst disease, and results in cysts being formed in the liver. The disease is very rare in the United States, but has been reported in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Humans are infected by eating contaminated meat or by accidentally ingesting eggs that have originated from the feces of dogs, coyotes or foxes harboring the adult tapeworm. Fortunately, de-worming preparations, particularly those containing praziquantel, are effective for eliminating this cestode from infected dogs.

Prevention of cestode tapeworm infection involves avoidance of uncooked or partially cooked meat or meat by-products.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Hookworms

hookworm teethHookworms are a very common intestinal parasite of dogs. They get their nickname from the hook-like mouth parts (teeth) that they use to anchor themselves to the wall of the intestinal tract.  Once they have attached, they feed on the blood of their host. Hookworms are very small and are difficult to see with the naked eye, but the damage and the amount of blood they consume can be massive. Large numbers of hookworms in young puppies can cause severe anemia from the blood loss and many puppies can die without a blood transfusion.

Dogs can get hookworms many different ways. Young puppies can be infected while still in their mother’s womb directly through the placenta as well as through the milk when nursing. Because of this early infection, puppies should be de-wormed when they are just 2 weeks old and repeated every 2 weeks for the first few months of their lives. Monthly de-worming is recommended as a regular prevention.

 

 

Adult dogs can become infected by walking through contaminated soil where active larvae hatched from eggs deposited in fecal matter can penetrate directly through the pads of their feet. Once the larvae enter the skin, they then migrate through the body until they reach the lungs, at which time they are coughed up and swallowed. While the hookworms are migrating through the body, many can encyst in the muscle and lay dormant for many years. These are the source of hookworms that infect puppies while in the womb. After the hookworms are swallowed, they reach the intestinal tract and latch on to the wall of the intestine and start feeding on blood. The adult worms also mate and lay thousands of eggs that are passed in the feces. The eggs hatch into
larvae in moist warm environments which start the life cycle again. 11. Ancylostoma adults Hookworms

Humans can also become infected if walking barefoot through contaminated areas, however, the hookworms cannot complete their life cycle, but do cause a localized dermatitis where they penetrate the skin and can cause other problems while trying to migrate through the body.
Some people can have allergic reactions to the migrating worms.

Dogs can also be infected by ingesting the larvae, either by cleaning their feet or fur, or when drinking water or licking contaminated surfaces.

 

Because of the prevalence of hookworms in dogs, many veterinarians and the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) recommend routine de-worming with anthelmintics. Several of the newer flea and heartworm preventatives also include ingredients to remove hookworms and other parasites as well. Your puppy should be tested for hookworms as soon as your get him and follow your veterinarians recommendations for maintenance. Breeders should have the mother dog and young puppies dewormed every 2 weeks. Anthelmintics do not affect the dormant hookworms in the muscle.  Studies have shown that these hookworms can release during gestation and infect the puppies for up to seven
consecutive litters.

Signs of hookworm infection can include pale gums, a dark ,tarry stool, diarrhea, weight loss and failure to thrive.  Older dogs can develop diarrhea or dark, tarry stools.

You can limit the amount of hookworms deposited in your yard by cleaning up the fecal material and disposing of it. Fecal waste from dogs should not be used in compost bins, but there are special compost bins to handle the waste.

Heartworms in Pets

With over 250,000 known cases across the United States, canine heartworm disease continues to plague our pets, causing emotional distress to the owners and financial worries to their pocketbooks. The saddest part of all: this disease is completely preventable.
heartworm_disease
We know what causes heartworm disease, we know how to treat it, and we even have safe, effective medications to prevent the disease. So, why are more than a quarter of a million dogs and cats still getting this terrible disease?

According to a survey recently released by the American Heartworm Society over 250,000 dogs and cats tested positive for heartworm infection nationwide in 2004. Since these cases only included dogs that routinely see the veterinarian, some estimates of the true incidence of heartworms in dogs range as high as 11 million canines infected with the parasite. Throw in coyotes and foxes and one can easily see the huge reservoir of potential cases.

Heartworms are a parasite that reside in the vessels leading from the heart to the lungs of many different mammals, but are primarily suited for life in a canine. The immature larva of the adult heartworms are taken in during feeding by mosquitoes and then spread from mosquito back to dogs after a short, 2 week maturation period in the mosquito’s stomach and salivary glands. After returning to their natural host, the heartworm larva migrate through the dog’s body over the next four to six months, growing in length until they reach the heart. Upon reaching the heart, the foot long parasite becomes sexually active, producing large numbers of larva, which, in turn, wait to be picked up by a feeding mosquito, continuing the disease cycle. Infected dogs might have as few as 5 or 6 adult worms or as many as 250!

Adult heartworms absorb nutrients from the blood stream of the dog. In an attempt to rid the body of the parasite, the dog’s immune system fights the invader, often causing collateral damage to the blood vessels and lungs. In severe cases, large numbers of heartworms can block the major vessels entering and leaving the right side of the heart, causing high blood pressure, bleeding into the lungs, kidney and liver problems, and even death. Treatment of the disease itself involves the use of an arsenic compound. Although deadly side effects with the medication have been extremely rare, many dogs succumb to blood clots in the lungs as the adult heartworms die. And the cost of treatment is also a concern. Appropriate diagnostics, medications, and re-testing of the heartworm positive dog might run as high as $500 to $1,000, depending on the size of the pet.

“Many people are just not aware of how deadly heartworms can be, especially to active pets.” says Dr. Tom Nelson, President of the American Heartworm Society. “Heartworms can live 5-7 years and the owner may not see of any of the symptoms. Many of our pets might be considered less active and these pets will not show the signs of heartworm disease until it becomes severe.”

Keeping your pet indoors will not insure that your pet will not get exposed. It only takes one mosquito getting into your house or one potty trip outside to be bitten by an infected mosquito. Even a few worms can cause severe damage to the heart, lungs and kidneys. Now even cats are presenting with heartworms and we are recommending both dogs and cats use a heartworm prevention all year round.

On a more positive note, veterinary medicine has a wide variety of options available to the pet owner for prevention of this disease. Easy to give monthly chewables are the most convenient way to prevent infection. The most commonly prescribed monthly chewable is called Heartgard. Administration of these preventives at the appropriate time intervals can virtually guarantee protection for your pet. In fact, manufacturers of heartworm preventive will stand behind their product and reimburse any medical treatments necessary should a dog develop heartworms while on their product.

Newer products, such as Revolution and Advantage-Multi, are applied on the skin and also help protect against fleas and internal parasites. New Trifexis is a chewable tablet that covers heartworms, fleas and intestinal parasites.

It is vitally important to test your dog prior to starting heartworm preventive or extreme allergic reactions could develop. Your veterinarian will draw a small amount of blood from your pet and, in many instances, you might know the test results prior to leaving the veterinarian’s office. Due to the extreme prevalence of this disease, the American Heartworm Society strongly encourages annual re-testing of all dogs.

According to Nelson, pet owners seem to be likely to switch products, with or without the knowledge of their veterinarian. This product and brand switching has the FDA concerned about a perceived lack of protection, or even potential product failure. “We need to make sure we catch this disease as early as possible, thus the strong recommendation for annual testing.” says Nelson.

Also to be considered is how society has changed in the last 20 years. As people and their pets move from the wetter regions of the Midwest and Southeast to the sunshine of southern California and Arizona, they often bring along these unwelcome parasites. Nelson says “If you have mosquitoes where you live, heartworms, even if they aren’t native to the area, will be there as well.”

Hurricane Katrina caused many heartworm positive dogs to move into all parts of the country thus accelerating the spread.

As spring time approaches, we all welcome the return of the bright sunshine, the longer days, and the blooming of nature. Just remember, the return of warmer days will mean the return of mosquitoes and the potential for heartworm disease spreading. Make sure your best friend protected! Call your veterinarian today and schedule a heartworm test. For more information, visit the American Heartworm Society at www.heartwormsociety.org.

Dr. Debra Garrison is a veterinarian at the Treaschwig Veterinary Clinic

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm Disease is a potentially life-threatening parasitic infection. Found worldwide, it infects wild and domestic dogs, sea lions, ferrets, and cats. In rare cases it can infect other animals and humans.

How Pets Get Heartworms
Heartworm Disease is caused by a worm, Dirofilaria immitis, and spread by mosquitoes. When a mosquito feeds on an infected animal, usually a dog, it ingests microscopic larvae in the blood. These microfilaria mature in the mosquito for about two weeks. When the mosquito bites a susceptible animal the infectious larvae are injected into its tissues. They migrate through the animals body, maturing into adult worms over a period of months. The adult worms live in the heart and major blood vessels where they reproduce to create new microfilaria. The time from infection to appearance of microfilaria is about six months.

Dogs are highly susceptible to heartworm infection, while it is much less common in other domestic animals such as cats and ferrets.

In the United States, heartworms are found in all 50 states but are most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and near the Mississippi River

What the Disease Does
The severity of the disease is related to the number of adult worms present. Adult worms cause inflammation of the blood vessels and the lungs. The disease can progress to heart failure, liver failure, and rupture of major blood vessels. Dogs with heartworms do not always show symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease or if only a few adult heartworms are present. When symptoms do occur, they include coughing, tiring easily during exercise, difficulty breathing, fluid in the abdomen, fainting, and death.

Symptoms in ferrets resemble those in dogs. Symptoms in cats include coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and seizures. Cats and ferrets may die without exhibiting any symptoms.

How Heartworm Disease is Diagnosed
Adult heartworms can be detected with a simple blood test. Pets that test positive should undergo additional testing to determine the stage of the disease. Recommended procedures include a blood screen for microfilaria and chest x-rays. Prior to initiating treatment, dogs should have a complete blood panel. EKGs, echocardiograms, and angiograms may also be recommended.

Treatment for Heartworm Disease
Dogs are treated with drugs that are able to kill the adult heartworms, but are also potentially fatal for the dog. Therefore, treatment is performed in the hospital where the dog can be carefully monitored and treated for toxicity if necessary. Treatment may need to be repeated more than once, and can be quite costly. Dogs that initially test positive for microfilaria undergo a second stage of treatment. Treatment for microfilaria is not as dangerous and is usually given on an outpatient basis, three to six weeks after treatment for adult worms.

Successful treatment is confirmed by testing again for adult worms and for microfilaria.

Complications are more common in cats and ferrets treated for adult heartworms, so it is sometimes safer to wait for the worms to die naturally. Anti-inflammatories and other medications may be used to control symptoms. These pets rarely develop microfilaria, but those that do can be treated similarly to dogs.

Preventing Heartworm Disease
Fortunately, effective preventive medications are available to protect dogs, cats, and ferrets. Most are given monthly and can be started as early as 4-6 weeks of age. Pets started on preventive medications before six months of age are tested after they have been on the medication for at least six months. Pets that begin heartworm prevention after six months of age should be tested before the preventive is given the first time, and again after six months. Annual retesting is recommended by most veterinarians. Preventive is given seasonally in some parts of the U.S., but year-round in temperate areas. If a dose is missed, its best to give it as soon as possible and check with your veterinarian about the need for a heartworm test.

Heartworms in Cats

heartworms in catsHeartworm Disease is a potentially life-threatening parasitic infection. Found worldwide, it mainly affects dogs and their wild relatives. However, it causes serious disease in some cats as well.

How Pets Get Heartworms
Heartworm Disease is caused by a worm, Dirofilaria immitis, and is spread by mosquitoes. When a mosquito feeds on an infected animal, usually a dog, it ingests microscopic larvae in the blood. These microfilariae mature in the mosquito for about two weeks. When the mosquito bites a susceptible animal the infectious larvae are injected into its tissues. They migrate through the animals body, maturing into adult worms over a period of months. The adult worms live in the heart and major blood vessels where they reproduce to create new microfilariae. The time from infection to appearance of microfilariae is about six months.

Cats seem to have a greater natural resistance against heartworms as compared to dogs. The prevalence of the disease in cats ranges from 0% to about 9% depending on geographic area. In the United States, heartworms are found in all 50 states but are most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and near the Mississippi River. When cats do get heartworms, they usually only develop one or a few adult worms. The worms rarely reproduce or produce microfilariae.

What the Disease Does
Adult worms cause inflammation of the blood vessels and the lungs, and can obstruct arteries. They can live in a cats body as long as two or three years, but may be killed sooner by the animals immune system. As worms die, they release antigens that can create life-threatening inflammatory reactions.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats are vague. They include coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and seizures. Some cats die suddenly without showing any other symptoms.

How Heartworm Disease is Diagnosed
Diagnosis of heartworms in cats is more difficult as compared with dogs. Blood tests for antibodies to heartworm are useful initially. However, the antibody test determines only whether the cat has been exposed. It will not differentiate between an infected cat and a cat that was exposed but fought off the infection. Therefore, antibody-positive cats should receive further testing. A blood test for the presence of the adult heartworm (antigen test) is often the second step. A positive antigen test confirms the presence of heartworms. However, the test can miss some infected cats, so other diagnostics may be needed too. These include physical examination, blood counts, microfilaria tests, x-rays, ultrasound, and angiography.

Treatment for Heartworm Disease
There are no medicines currently approved for treatment of feline heartworm disease in the United States. Cats with mild symptoms are monitored carefully and may be given anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids to minimize lung inflammation. A physical exam and x-rays are recommended twice a year. The goal is to support the cat until the worms have died and the inflammation has subsided. Cats with more serious symptoms are usually hospitalized and may require additional medications, such as bronchodilators, IV fluids, oxygen, and antibiotics.

Medications designed for killing adult heartworms in dogs are sometimes used to treat cats. This is considered an experimental use of these drugs and is undertaken with great caution, since the risk of fatal side effects is relatively high. Even more rarely, adult worms may be surgically extracted from a cats heart.

Preventing Heartworm Disease
Fortunately, effective preventive medications are available. They are given monthly and can be started as early as 4-6 weeks of age. Preventive medication is recommended for cats in areas where heartworms are common. Cats should be tested for heartworm before starting preventive treatment, and retested annually. Preventive is given seasonally in some parts of the U.S., but year-round in temperate areas. If a dose is missed, its best to give it as soon as possible and check with your veterinarian about the need for a heartworm test.

Visit the Heartworm Society for more information on cat heartworms