It is spring! Spring has sprung! I am so excited. It is warm outside, the breeze is fresh as it blows in my window and fluffs my fur. The sun is brighter, not as pale as it was a month or so ago, and in the sky so much longer. I love spring!
But there is a dark side to all this beauty; lurking in the corner, waiting for the moment an unsuspecting victim lowers their guard. Yes, you guessed it. I am talking about bugs. Insects, spiders, flies, bees, wasps, ants, anything that creeps and crawls and flies. Oh, how I dislike bugs. Yes, yes, I know, they are useful and helpful in many ways. Bees pollinate flowers and trees so we have lovely things to look at and eat. Other bugs help keep away pests from gardens so the wonderful fresh veggies can grow. Flies help take care of things that need to be taken care of, and on and on. But on the whole, I am not a big fan of bugs in my room. Unless it happens to be a spider that I can chase. That provides me with hours of entertainment. And when I tire of chasing him, he does make a nice little midnight snack.
Then, one morning not too long ago, I heard my girls talking at a morning meeting. What they had to say cured me of my spider habit. Cold turkey. Just. Like. That. No more spiders for this kit. No sir-ee! No way!
Now, what I am about to share with you is not for the faint of heart. And if anything I relay leads to more questions, you go right ahead and call the wonderful team at Bear Creek Animal Clinic. They know a lot more about this than I do. But I will share with you what I do know.
I mentioned that they were having a meeting. Dr Deb was educating the rest of the staff about parasites and worms. Ick! It was a rather gross topic to me, so I was only half listening as I watched a spider crawl up the wall. I was waiting for just the right moment and…BAM! Got him. Mmmm, tasty. However, as I finished my snack, what I heard made my blood run cold. Spiders carry worm eggs. WHAT!? My favorite snack has worms? Oh, no! No, no, no, no. I tried to bring the spider back out, but it was too late. He was down for the count. I started to panic! Then I heard Dr Deb tell the team there are ways to detect if a pet that has ingested a spider, or a flea, or a (shiver and shake) cockroach, has acquired worms from said “bug”. Fecal testing. Yup, that’s right. I’m talking about poo.
Now, you all know me, and you know that I am a cat of refined tastes and rarely do I stoop to bathroom humor. But believe me, this is no laughing matter! I heard Dr Deb say that sometimes pets infected with worms may have a change in appetite. Wait, maybe that is why I am so hungry all the time! Sometimes worms and parasites can cause vomiting, or constipation, or diarrhea. Sometimes the poo can change color. I ran to my box, and checked. No diarrhea, no color change, looks like it always does. But maybe it’s early and the worms haven’t really started to develop yet. Maybe they can check and see if the eggs are there. I have got to let them know that I need to be checked. Then I heard Dr Deb say that sometimes pets’ behavior changes; they start acting skittish, or lethargic, or nippy, or aggressive. She said that some dogs might start digging, or eating inappropriate things, because they are uncomfortable. I looked around my room. “Hmmm, what could I do to get their attention, and get them to test my poo?” I decided skittish might be my best chance. I am usually very sedate and dignified. If I suddenly started yowling and running around like something was after me, (because, let’s face it, something truly may be after me) then they would surely wonder what was up and run a few tests to check things out. (I won’t keep you in suspense…running around and acting crazy worked! Jen asked what had gotten into me, Sarah said maybe they should check my poo, since they had just been talking about it, and sure enough, there were some little creepy crawlies in there. More on that later.)
Basically, other than never eating spiders again, I learned several important points.
- All pets, indoor and outdoor, are at risk of getting worms.
- Some worms can infect both cats and dogs, like tapeworms and roundworms.
- Tapeworms come from fleas, primarily, but also from small rodents. If your dog or cat likes to chase and eat mice, voles, gophers, and the like, they may have tapeworms.
- Roundworms are primarily passed from momma dogs and cats to their offspring.
- Dogs (versus cats) are most likely to get hook and whipworms. Usually they pick these up through dirt, whether they lick it from their paws or ingest it from a ball or other toy that has rolled around on the ground.
- Some worms are transmissible to humans from pets.
Most importantly, there is a simple solution!
- Regular fecal testing through your veterinarian can alert you to the presence of intestinal parasites and worms. Each time you schedule your pet for an annual physical, or a puppy/kitten for their first wellness check, bring a stool sample along for your veterinary team to test. (You can even swing by the office a few days prior to your appointment and pick up one of the cool little vials they have. This keeps the process of collecting the sample relatively sanitary. Just make sure to wash your hands well after collecting it.)
- Most dogs get monthly heartworm treatment and these have a dewormer in them already that works on hook, round, and whipworms. If your dog is not on monthly heartworm preventative, talk to your veterinary staff. There is also a pill for dogs that treats tapeworms.
- Cat owners can take advantage of a topical treatment that will treat hook, round, and tapeworms for three months. Treatment for whipworms in cats is a bit trickier, but with the proper deworming medications and cleaning of the cat’s environment, you can treat them, as well.
- Regular fecal testing, and good hygiene on the part of humans will help protect pet owners and children. Good hygiene includes regular hand-washing after playing with a pet as well as keeping the yard picked up and litter box clean
If you suspect your pet may have worms, ask yourself these simple questions:
- Have you noticed consistency or color changes with your pet’s stool?
- Have you noticed diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting?
- Does your cat use the litter box properly? Is he missing? Using a different area?
- Has your pet gained or lost weight?
- Have you noticed any other health or behavioral issues or changes?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, call your veterinarian. Ask some questions, take in a stool sample. Your furry friend will thank you!
Oh, yes, back to my test. It came back positive for tapeworms, so Sarah dosed me with the topical treatment. The worms had not shown up in my poo yet, and it was still a normal color and consistency. No vomiting for this cat. Maybe a little weight gain, but I am nearly middle aged, so that comes with the territory. I pride myself on always hitting my target, so nothing outside the litter box. Basically, what I am getting at is this: You, as observant of a pet parent as you are, may not have a clue that anything is amiss. Schedule your pet’s annual physical when it is time, take in a stool sample, and be proud that you are a conscientious pet owner. After all, “Dogs (and cats) are angels full of poop.” (Oliver Gaspritz, Pet Humor)