Don’t Let These Nasty Creatures Infect Your Pet!

Our Proactive Testing and Prevention Protocols Keep Your Pet Free of Internal Parasites

Dogs, cats and exotic pets can all be infected by internal parasites, and many can be passed along to humans. At Small Animal Primary Care, we recommend an ongoing proactive approach to testing for, treating and preventing internal parasites.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is found primarily in dogs, cats and ferrets and is caused by a parasitic worm spread through a bite from an infected mosquito. Heartworm disease often results in severe lung damage, heart failure and damage to other organs. Heartworm disease can result in death. 

Heartworm disease prevalence in the Greater Lafayette area affects 16-17% of dogs and cats not on preventive medications.

The disease is different in dogs and cats. Dogs are the definitive host for heartworm disease, meaning dogs get an immature form of the worms from a mosquito and the worms then mature to adults and reproduce in the dog. In cats, the immature worm migration triggers coughing and lung injury and may predispose them to chronic asthma problems. Small numbers of adult worms makes testing more difficult in cats.

Treatments are available for dogs with heartworm disease, but they are hard on the pet and expensive. A far better option is ongoing prevention.

Heartworm Preventives

Heartworm preventives work by killing any immature heartworm present in your pet’s skin shortly after the mosquito bite. Our veterinarians strongly recommend prescription preventives to protect your pet year-round from heartworms.

Preventives come in several forms, including monthly chewable and non-chewable oral tablets, topicals and injections lasting as long as six months to a full year. Some preventives also control hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, fleas, ticks and mites. Our team will discuss your pet’s risks of exposure to heartworms and other parasites and recommend the best preventive options for your pet. 

We use blood tests to determine if a pet has heartworms, and your adult dog and cat should be tested for heartworms before starting a preventive. Giving preventives to a heartworm-positive dog can leave behind adult heartworms and may even be deadly if larval heartworms (microfilaria) in the pet’s bloodstream suddenly die.

We recommend an annual heartworm test for all adult dogs, even if they have been on preventives continuously, before renewing their preventive prescription.

Other Internal Parasites

For dogs and cats, common internal parasites detected by fecal exams and cleared by deworming include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and whipworms.

  • Roundworms look like spaghetti noodles when seen in the stool. Kittens and puppies may contract these worms from their mother before birth. Infection causes weakness and poor weight gain. These worms are zoonotic and the eggs can be ingested and cause disease in people.
  • Hookworms can be contracted by puppies and kittens from their mother's milk. Infection may cause blood in the stool, poor weight gain, and low numbers of red blood cells. Hookworms are zoonotic and can be transmitted to people through skin contact with infected soil.
  • Tapeworm segments in the stool look like grains of rice. They are transmitted by ingestion of fleas, rodents and rabbits. Humans may be infected if they ingest fleas, but not by direct transmission from infected pets.
  • Whipworm infections in dogs may cause bloody diarrhea and/or mucous in the stool.

For adult and senior pets, we recommend fecal checks as part of regularly-scheduled wellness exams and at any time your pet shows symptoms.