Parasites in Our Pets

Parasites are the most common problem most healthy pets have. At Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Crossville and Cookeville, our teams are here to help your pet battle parasites before the infestation becomes widespread or life-threatening. Testing is the most important weapon in our arsenal to defend your pet against parasites. We are here to diagnose and prevent problems, and to treat them when they arise.

Why are intestinal parasites so harmful and why is it so important to prevent them in our pets?

Parasites that live in the gastrointestinal tract prevent our pets from digesting and absorbing nutrients appropriately. They can cause diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, poor growth, ravenous appetite, anemia, and poor hair coat. In addition to causing illness in our pets, some parasites such as hookworms, roundworms and giardia can be spread to people.

Best Friends Veterinary Hospital recommends a fecal sample to detect intestinal parasites at least once yearly in healthy adult dogs and cats. Any pet that is not feeling well (vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, etc) should have a fecal sample checked too. Puppies and kittens should have a fecal sample checked at each of their vaccine visits. When in doubt, bring a fecal sample to your appointment, if your veterinarian thinks it is not needed, it can be disposed of.

Common parasites we test, monitor and treat:

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Ticks are abundant in East Tennessee and can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease in pets and their owners. In extreme cases, ticks can make your pet very sick or even become fatal. We can help you treat ticks with preventative medicines and vaccines that will keep them away from your pet in most cases.

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Quite common and often hard to control, your dog or cat might encounter fleas when they go outside—even for a minute is enough time for fleas to attach to your pet. Fleas are more of a nuisance, but can cause tapeworms in some cases. Additionally, they can spread easily to your and your home. Preventative medication is recommended and strongly encouraged to control fleas year-round.

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A bloated belly is often a sign of roundworms or other intestinal parasites, which can cause your pet to feel sluggish, trigger diarrhea and negatively impact its health overall. We recommend exams and treatment for puppies and kittens, as most young animals have worms. A fecal test can generally detect these types of parasites, allowing our vets to treat your pet as soon as possible with our de-worming procedures.

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Heartworms are another common parasite that affects dogs and cats, and can be fatal if not treated, as the parasite invades the heart, causing major damage. A low, persistent cough accompanied by fatigue and weight loss can be signs of heartworm damage. At Best Friends, we include heartworm testing as part of your pet’s annual exam and can provide treatment, as well as monthly preventative medicine to stop problems before they start.

How do these parasites infect our pets?

Wildlife abounds, even in urban areas. Infected wildlife or pets can contaminate soil, ponds or puddles with worm eggs, larvae or protozoa cysts. Pets that simply walk around outside can pick up infective forms of the organisms on their feet. As soon as they lick their feet they can become infected. Drinking water from contaminated sources is another way that pets commonly get infected. Ingestion of infected wildlife (like rodents) is one other source. But what about my indoor cat? If your cat is a great hunter, you may not have even known that a mouse got into your house, prompting possible infection. Cockroaches and flies are other known sources, since they may eat animal feces and slip into the house. Fleas are small enough to fit through screens and spread tapeworms to your cat when eaten during normal grooming. Even house plants can be a source of infection. It has been found that 5-10% of all potting soil contains roundworm eggs.

Won’t I know if my
pet has parasites?

Depending on the type of parasite and number of worms, your cat or dog may be pretty sick with diarrhea or vomiting. Some pets may have pooped or vomited evidence of the worms. Other parasites show minimal symptoms, such as an unexplained mild weight loss. Every pet should have a fecal sample brought to the vet for testing every year. Some pets may need more frequent testing if they hunt or have more outdoor or dog park exposure. Monthly parasite preventatives are a must. Annual fecal testing is one of the most important parts of veterinary care for your pet and a safety measure for your family.

Call Best Friends Veterinary Hospital today to get your pet examined if you suspect there may be parasites present. Checking for parasites is part of a regular physical exam, which we recommend scheduling every year.