Parasites in pets… and people

Regular fecal testing for parasites is a very important part of keeping your pet and even you healthy. Intestinal parasites are fairly common in pets and there are several different kinds. Some intestinal parasites are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye while some worms can be seen in feces or on a pet’s bedding. A few kinds of common parasites in pets are zoonotic which means they can infect people. Giardia and Roundworm are two of the most common zoonotic parasites in our area. Giardia usually causes diarrheal illness in people. It is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it tolerant to chlorine disinfection. While Giardia can be spread in different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common method of transmission. Roundworm may cause illness in people including fever, fatigue, coughing, wheezing, abdominal pain, eye inflammation, retinal damage, and even vision loss. The most severe cases of Roundworm infection in people are rare, but are more likely to occur in young children, who often play in dirt, or eat dirt contaminated by dog or cat feces. Pets who are infected with intestinal parasites might have diarrhea, weight loss, appetite changes, or a large belly but many pets have no symptoms at all. We recommend fecal testing for intestinal parasites including Giardia every 6 months to help keep your pet and you healthy. We also recommend keeping your pets on a monthly preventative for heartworms and other internal parasites that is relatively easy to give and inexpensive. In honor of American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Responsible Pet Ownership Month in September we are donating a portion of every preventative fecal test performed in the month of August to Ventura County Animal Service’s (VCAS) ongoing effort to educate about responsible pet ownership and help keep pets out of shelters.