Whipworms (Trichuriasis)

Whipworms are small thread-like parasites that embed deep within the lining of the colon (large intestine) and cecum. Trichuris vulpis, the canine whipworm, is a common parasite and is a major cause of diarrhea in the dog. The feline whipworms, Trichuris campanula and Trichuris serrata, are uncommon and usually do not produce any clinical symptoms.

Whipworms infect dogs of all ages. Clinical symptoms often depend upon the number of parasites embedded in the colon and cecum. Symptoms can range from slight diarrhea to massive rectal bleeding. In most dogs, a mucoid-like diarrhea is generally observed.

The diagnosis of whipworm infection is made by observing the characteristic parasite eggs under a microscopic. This test is routinely performed at most veterinary hospitals. A small stool sample is necessary in order to run the test.

Medication is available for the treatment of whipworm infection. Very often, pets need multiple treatments in order to eliminate the parasite. Your veterinarian can discuss the method of treatment that is best suited for your pet.

Whipworm is extremely difficult to eliminate from infected soil. Dogs that have access to these areas often reinfect continuously. A specific treatment protocol is usually required for these dogs.

Tapeworm Infection: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Tapeworms are common parasites that live in the small intestine of dogs, cats and other animals. Dipylidium caninum, the most common tapeworm of dogs and cats, is transmitted by fleas. Dogs and cats become infected with this tapeworm by ingesting fleas (during self grooming and licking)(1). Two other types of tapeworm are also very common. Taenia pisiformis in the dog, and Taenia taeniaeformis in the cat are transmitted by rabbits and rodents (mice, rats squirrels). Dogs and cats become infected after ingesting one of these infected animals (2).

The adult tapeworm consists of a head and a very long body. The body is made up of many segments. Some of the segments (called proglottids) break off and are passed in the feces. The proglottids are cream colored and are often seen attached to fur around the animal’s anus.

The proglottids (segments) of Dipylidium caninum are very mobile and crawl around the animal’s anal area. This produces an itching sensation and causes the animal to “scoot” across the floor.

Tapeworms are diagnosed by identifying the proglottids (segments). These segments are about the size of a grain of rice and are found in the pet’s bedding, attached to the fur around the anus, or in the feces.

Tapeworm infection rarely causes noticeable clinical symptoms. A voracious appetite is sometimes observed as well as a slight decline in body condition.

Medication is available for treating tapeworm infection. The medication kills the adult worm. After successful treatment, segments are no longer seen in the feces.

Flea prevention is an excellent method of controlling Dipylidium caninum infection. Taenia infections are controlled by reducing the pet’s contact with intermediate hosts (rabbits and rodents).

Roundworms in Dogs

These intestinal parasites can often be found in young puppies and kittens. They measure two to six inches in length and look like very thin pieces of spaghetti. Roundworm infections often cause puppies to appear pot-bellied or bloated, anemic, have diarrhea, weight loss and vomit. The puppies are often less lively and do not grow as well as uninfected puppies. Coughing is also an occasional symptom of roundworm infections.

Since the parasites can travel from the mother to the unborn, puppies are often born with roundworms.

Young puppies can also become infected while nursing. (Roundworm larvae are passed in the mother’s milk.) Adult dogs become infected by ingesting material contaminated by feces or by ingesting small rodents. (Rodents are carriers of roundworms.) After hatching in the dog’s intestine, roundworm larva are carried by the bloodstream to the lungs. From the lungs, the larvae crawl up the windpipe and are swallowed. Once the larvae are in the intestine, they grow to adulthood. Coughing occurs when the larvae are in the throat.

Accurate diagnosis of roundworms is important since they can cause serious problems. Puppies can die from severe roundworm infections. A one month old puppy should have his (her) stool examined for roundworms. As a precautionary measure, many veterinarians routinely treat young puppies for roundworm infections.

At the time of puppy vaccinations, stool examinations should be performed. Adult dogs should have a stool sample examined for worms at least twice a year (Spring and the Fall). Anytime a dog has a digestive tract problem, a stool exam can detect or rule out the presence of internal parasites.

A stool examination, performed at a veterinary hospital, not only detects the presence or absence of adult worms, it also detects the presence of worm eggs. The feces are mixed with a special chemical solution, and after several minutes, the solution is examined under a microscope. If worm eggs are seen, the veterinarian, or a trained technician, can identify the specific worm. The appropriate medication is then dispensed in order to eliminate that particular worm.

When bringing a stool specimen to the veterinary hospital, it is best to transport it in a small ,clean glass jar. A fresh specimen is definitely best. An old specimen may no longer contain the parasite or the eggs.

Stool examinations are an inexpensive method of detecting internal parasite infections in dogs. Early detection and accurate treatment will prevent these parasites from causing intestinal disorders. Along with vaccinations and regular check-ups, stool exams are considered part of the routine pet care given to all dogs.

Hookworm Infection

Hookworms are small, thin, intestinal parasites that are common in dogs. The canine (dog) hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum, is a voracious bloodsucker. These worms fasten to the wall of the small intestine and suck blood.

In cats, hookworm infection is caused by the parasite Ancylostoma tubaeforme. The disease is uncommon, and the parasite is not a bloodsucker.

Dogs become infected with hookworms by four routes:

  1. Ingestion of soil contaminated with hookworm larvae and eggs (most common method),
  2. Skin penetration by the hookworm larvae,
  3. Passage of hookworm larvae through the mother’s milk to the young puppy,
  4. Infection of the puppy while in the mother’s uterus.

Young heavily infested puppies generally show severe signs of hookworm infection. Bloody diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, and dehydration are common symptoms. Some animals only develop a slight case of diarrhea, however they appear weak and anemic. Intense blood loss can result in rapid death of young puppies.

Hookworm infection in mature dogs usually goes unnoticed. Diarrhea and weight loss are the most common symptoms. These animals are often the source of infection for puppies.

The diagnosis of hookworm is made by observing the parasite eggs under a microscope. This technique is commonly done at most veterinary hospitals. A small (fresh) stool sample is necessary in order to perform the test.

Animals infected with hookworms should be treated with an appropriate medication. In areas where hookworm is a problem, a regular treatment protocol is recommended. Your veterinarian can recommend a treatment that is specific to your pet.

Public Health – Transmission to Humans

The infectious larvae of some hookworm species can penetrate and wander under the skin, causing a disorder known as “cutaneous larva migrans”. This condition is extremely uncommon. If cutaneous larva migrans is suspected, a physician should be consulted.

Routine Health Exams

Remember the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? That happens to be as true for the health of your pet as it is for any member of your family!

Annual health examinations will help determine the general well being of your pet and identify potential problems. Early detection ensures prompt action that may solve the problem before serious consequences occur and may prevent suffering.

The history…

Your veterinarian will ask you questions about the health history of your pet. Be sure to discuss any unusual behavior with your veterinarian.

Medical records will be consulted if the pet has been a regular patient. Notes will be made on your pet’s diet, water consumption, and on a variety of daily behavior patterns that relate to your pet’s health.

Temperature, pulse, respiration rate, and body weight may be noted and then your veterinarian will begin the physical examination from nose to tail.

A wet or dry nose doesn’t mean good health…

The nose is not the health barometer that some people think it is, but it is a good place to start, Your veterinarian will check your pet’s nose for abnormal discharges, and changes in color, texture, moisture, or shape.

Pet’s ears invite infection…

You’ll probably be asked if your dog or cat has been shaking its head or scratching at its ears. Have you noticed any odor from the ears? Your pets deep, curved ear canals provide protection for the inner ear, but these canals also provide a snug home for parasites, infections, and foreign objects. A visual check will be made.

Eyes: these are the windows to your pet’s state of health…

Many conditions, such as Anemia and jaundice, often are discovered through eye examinations. Often, cataracts are some of the first noticeable symptoms of diabetes. Your veterinarian also may observe the inner structures of the eye. Problems such as glaucoma, retinal defects or local inflammation may be detected. Injuries, ulcers and lacerations of the eye can also be detected.

Your pet will receive an oral exam…

Oral hygiene is extremely important. Your veterinarian will check your pets gums, teeth, tongue, and palate for abnormalities, tumors, and infections. A dental examination is important for detecting gingivitis, periodontal disease, and infected teeth. Teeth cleaning and polishing may be recommended at this time.

Listening to the heart and lungs…

Your veterinarian will use a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s heart and lungs. If any irregularities are noted, additional tests may be necessary. Early heart disease and respiratory problems are often recognized during a routine health exam.


Your pet’s reproductive system will be examined. Your veterinarian will probably explain that spaying or neutering provides many benefits beyond birth control.

Health is sometimes skin deep…

The skin is the body’s largest organ and a good indicator of your pets health. Your veterinarian will examine the condition of the skin and hair as a means of detecting other health problems.

Your pet will be checked for fleas, ticks, other external parasites, tumors, and wounds.

Sense of touch…

Your veterinarian will use hands and fingers to feel the abdomen. This sense of touch will help to assess the condition of internal organs and to detect tumors or other irregularities. The legs and feet of your pet will be checked. The condition of joints, muscles, skin, lymph nodes, and hair also will be noted.

It’s wise to immunize…

Immunizing your pet against disease is one of the best tools of preventive medicine. Dogs can be immunized against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, coronavirus, bordetella, rabies and Lyme disease.

Cats can be immunized against feline panleukopenia (distemper), rabies, feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, chlamydia, feline leukemia and FIP.

Health threats vary from city to city and even in various sections of cities; therefore, your veterinarian can tailor an immunization program for your pet based on local conditions and keep your pet protected with the latest vaccines.

If you have any questions concerning your pets’ health, please do not hesitate to contact us. Remember, your veterinarian and the friendly staff members at your veterinary hospital are your pets’ best friends and your best source of information about your pet.

Testing Dogs for Heartworm Disease

Heartworm is a serious, life-threatening disease of dogs. It is due to the presence of the adult stage of the parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle of the dog’s heart. The female worm is 6-14 inches long while the male worm is slightly smaller.

Heartworm disease occurs worldwide. Until the early 1970s, the occurrence of heartworm in the United States was primarily confined to the South and Southeastern regions. Today, it is found almost everywhere in the continental United States and is a major threat to the dog population of Canada.

Heartworm disease is not directly passed from an infected dog to a healthy dog. The disease is spread through an intermediate host, the mosquito. Transmission of heartworm depends upon the mosquito population of an area. About 70 species of mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the disease. The more mosquitoes in an area, the greater the chance of heartworm transmission.

For more information regarding heartworm, Click Here.

Presently, there are two tests for diagnosing heartworm disease in dogs. Both tests require just a small amount of blood and are performed at most veterinary hospitals.

Dogs should be tested once a year for heartworm disease. The heartworm antigen test is the preferred method. In order to perform the test, a small amount of blood is drawn from the dog’s forearm or neck vein. This test detects the presence of the adult heartworm in the pulmonary arteries and / or the dog’s heart. The heartworm antigen test is extremely accurate and is a very reliable method for diagnosing heartworm disease.

The second technique used for diagnosing canine heartworm disease is the microfilaria filtration test. This relatively simple test also requires a small amount of blood. The blood is filtered, stained, then examined under a microscope. If microfilariae are seen, the dog is positive for heartworm. Unfortunately, this test does not have the accuracy of the antigen test.

Heartworm is a serious deadly disease of dogs. All dogs living in a heartworm infected region should be tested (annually) for heartworm.

Heartworm prevention is simple. A once-a-month heartworm tablet is available for the prevention of canine heartworm disease.

The staff at your local veterinary hospital can answer all questions pertaining to heartworm.

Lyme Disease Vaccination

Lyme disease affects dogs, cats, people, horses, birds, cattle, and wild animals. Although it affects a large group of animals, clinical signs are often observed only in dogs and humans. In dogs, the most pronounced symptoms of Lyme disease are sore joints, a stiff gait, and lameness. The lameness is not always pronounced and often shifts from one leg to the other.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria-like organism called Borrelia burgdorferi. This organism is transmitted to animals by the deer tick, Ixodes dammini. Borrelia burgdorferi is difficult to isolate from clinically affected animals, however it can be isolated from these ticks.

The white-tailed deer and white-footed mouse are involved in transmission of the disease. The adult tick attaches to the deer and feeds on its blood. These adult ticks drop off the deer and lay eggs. The eggs hatch, larva and nymphs (young ticks) emerge, and these young ticks attach to mice. Since the white-footed mouse is the main reservoir of the disease, the young ticks become infected with the Borrelia organism.

Both the young ticks (nymph) and the adult ticks are responsible for transmitting the disease to animals. Researchers believe that the tick must attach to the animal for a period of 10-24 hours before the Borrelia organism becomes infectious. This is an important fact when dealing with prevention of the disease.

Arthritis, with joint pain, is the most common clinical symptom in dogs. Other symptoms include weight loss, fever, fatigue and swollen lymph glands.

A complete veterinary examination along with blood tests is required for diagnosing Lyme disease.

Ticks are generally found in wooded areas. They are most active during the warm months. Pets should be examined daily for ticks. If ticks are found, they should be removed immediately. Unfortunately the ticks that carry Lyme disease are extremely small. The nymph stage of the deer tick is equivalent to the size of a pinhead. Very often, single nymphs or adult ticks are not seen. (Remember that the tick must attach for a period of 10-24 hours before the Borrelia organism can be transmitted).

Spraying your dog with a tick repellent is beneficial; however, your veterinarian can recommend a product that is more effective, more convenient and lasts longer than a conventional spray.

A vaccine for the prevention of Lyme disease exists for dogs. Ask your veterinarian about vaccinating against Lyme disease.

Canine Coronavirus Vaccination

Canine coronavirus is an acute and highly contagious intestinal disease of dogs. The disease causes depression, vomiting, and diarrhea. The symptoms are similar to canine parvovirus; however the disease is less severe and fatalities are rare. Occasionally, very young or weak puppies, as well as older geriatric dogs, become severely dehydrated and die from the disease.

The majority of dogs infected with canine coronavirus are asymptomatic (have no symptoms). These asymptomatic animals are often the source of the virus for healthy, noninfected dogs. Particularly susceptible to the disease are show and field trial animals and dogs that are kenneled (boarded).

Canine coronavirus is transmitted from the feces of infected dogs to noninfected animals via the oral route. Infected animals can shed the virus for several months after clinical symptoms have disappeared. Asymptomatic dogs shed the virus as well.

Since canine coronavirus can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, veterinary care is required. Using laboratory tests, a veterinarian can distinguish between canine coronavirus and parvovirus.

Since the effectiveness of canine coronavirus vaccine is controversial, many hospitals do not use it. Your veterinarian can recommend a prevention strategy that is specific for your pet.

Decision To Have Your Dog Neutered Or Spayed

Having your pet spayed (ovariohysterectomy) or neutered (castrated) is an inexpensive and realistic method of pet population control. The number of unwanted adult and young animals that are euthanized each year in the United States is astounding. Aside from the pet overpopulation problem, neutering a male dog and spaying a female helps prevent, and even eliminates, medical problems associated with hormonal imbalances.

Male and female dogs reach sexual maturity around nine months of age. Often, male dogs reach maturity slightly later than females. Sometimes confusion exists between sexual maturity and normal puppy behavior. Normal puppy behavior is often exhibited when he or she straddles the leg(s) of an individual. This behavior has nothing to do with sexual maturity and is performed by both male and female puppies.

It is usually noticeable when a female dog (bitch) reaches sexual maturity. A bloody discharge is seen around her external genital area. This bloody discharge is significant and can last up to 10-14 days. Along with the discharge, the external genitals become swollen. This is the first phase of her heat cycle and is called “estrus.” During the last few days of the estrus phase, the bitch is receptive to the male and can get pregnant. Similar to cats, the gestation period lasts about two months. At the end of the two-month gestation period, puppies (puppies, not a puppy) are born. A typical litter size averages between five to 10 puppies.

Aside from having puppies, non-spayed females are more susceptible to mammary gland tumors and uterine infections. Pyometras (infections of the uterus) are extremely common in non-spayed bitches and almost always require emergency surgery. Mammary tumors get large and multiply quickly if left untreated. Having your dog spayed can eliminate both of these conditions.

Having your male dog neutered makes him a better pet. Instead of roaming, he will spend more time at home. Non-neutered male dogs often exhibit aggressive behavior, especially if a non-spayed female is in the vicinity. Dog fights between two non-neutered dogs are not uncommon. Usually one of the dogs ends up severely injured.

An aggressive dog will not hesitate to bite a human. Often, non-spayed and non-neutered dogs are significantly more aggressive than spayed and neutered animals. Many people receive serious injuries resulting from dog bites.

Dog neuters and spays are generally performed when animals are six to nine months of age.

Ovariohysterectomy in Dogs

Ovariohysterectomy is the medical term for spaying a female dog. Ovariohysterectomy is best performed on a puppy around 5-10 months of age. If necessary, the surgery can be performed at an earlier age without any noticeable side effects. Ovariohysterectomies can be performed at any age, however the surgery is much less complicated and there are fewer risks when the animal is young.

Even though a spay is considered routine surgery, there is nothing routine about any abdominal surgery performed under general anesthesia. Most Veterinarians consider a dog spay to be major surgery, especially when spaying older bitches that have had several heat cycles or have had puppies.

Having your female dog spayed is an obligation that comes with pet ownership. All humane organizations, animal shelters and veterinarians promote the concept of pet population control by having dogs and cats spayed and neutered. The cost of a dog spay is inexpensive, especially when you consider what is involved.

Pre-Surgical and Post-Surgical Considerations

Your pet should be current with her vaccinations.

No food should be given 12-18 hours before the surgery and no water should be given 2-4 hours before the surgery.

Your dog’s activities should be restricted for 5-7 days after the surgery.

Sutures often need to be removed 10-14 days post-surgically. Ask a hospital technician about suture removal.

Call the veterinary hospital if you notice any problems or have questions regarding your dog’s health.

The main reason for spaying a female dog is to prevent heat periods and unwanted pregnancies. Ovariohysterectomies also greatly reduce the risk of mammary cancer and certain skin disorders. After the spay, uterine infections and ovarian problems are nonexistent.

For more information, see the article “Decision To Have Your Male Dog Neutered And Your Female Dog Spayed.”