What is a Parasite?

A parasite is a creature that depends on another animal to live. Many internal parasites, such as worms, live in the digestive system while external parasites such as ticks, fleas and ear mites cause itching and skin irritations. Some infestations may seem like a minor problem but certain parasites can threaten your pets health.

Did you know:

That there are a number of preventative treatments that you can start your pets on at an early age? Because puppies and kittens are more susceptible to parasites, you should begin protecting your pets against these pests while they are still young.

Common Internal Parasites In Dogs

  • Roundworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Hookworms
  • Heartworms
  • Whipworms
  • Giardia
  • Protozoan Parasites

Common Internal Parasites In Cats

  • Tapeworms
  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Protozoan Parasites


Pets of all ages are at risk, however, puppies and kittens are especially susceptible to having roundworms at a very early age. A puppy who has a pot-bellied appearance is usually the first indicator that they could be infested with roundworms. If you suspect your cat or dog may have roundworms, or you notice anyof these signs: vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, pneumonia, stunted growth, or mucus in the stool. A stool sample should be checked during your puppy’s or kitten’s first visit with your veterinarian and at least yearly thereafter. If the stool sample comes back positive your veterinarian will then treat your pet, often times in multiple stages, to ensure all the worms have been killed. Roundworms are zoonotic and can be transmitted to humans. This is why it is important to make sure your pet is checked regularly for these nasty little parasites and kept clean and clear from them.


Whipworms are relatively common in dogs but are only occasionally seen in cats. This parasite is often transmitted to the pet after they have ingested infected matter (food or other). Whipworms are blood sucking parasites and can actually kill puppies and kittens if not treated as soon as possible. Whipworms attach themselves to the walls of the large intestines and will begin feeding on your pet’s blood.  Infections can range from mild to severe.  Whipworm infections can cause chronic health problems in dogs. Dogs with whipworm infections may not show any signs or symptoms, or those with more severe infestations can end up with inflammation in the large intestine and there can be any of the following symptoms: diarrhea, weight loss, mucus or blood in the stool, and/or anemia (pale gums and weakness).


Tapeworms are one of the most common parasites cats suffer from. These pests can enter your cat or dog’s digestive system in the form of a larvae which is transmitted by fleas, rodents, rabbits etc. Once the tapeworms have matured they begin feeding from your pet’s intestines which may cause your pet to eat more than they normally would without gaining any weight. Small white segments can be found in the hair around your pet’s anus, beneath the tail, or in the litter box or bedding. If left untreated, tapeworms can cause your pet serious medical issues. If you are concerned that your pet may have tapeworms, call us today and get your pet checked out!


Hookworms can cause anemia, diarrhea, weight loss, poor appetite, and a black or bloody stool, or even death if left untreated. Kittens and puppies can contract hookworms if the mother has hookworms because they are transmitted through the mother’s milk. Hookworms are rarely visible in the feces, so in order to get an accurate diagnosis, you will need to take a stool sample to your veterinarian to be tested. Hookworm eggs are shed through an infected pets feces and can end up in the environment, contaminating the ground where the animal defecated. Once the hookworm larvae hatch they will begin feeding on soil bacteria. These infective larvae can survive 3 to 4 weeks in favorable conditions and the eggs remain can remain in the environment for months or years. This is why it is important to keep your yard clean and well kept by picking up after your pet.


These particular parasites differ from intestinal worms, but they can be very dangerous to your pet. Heartworms are more prevalent in dogs, however, cats can contract heartworms but they are not as susceptible as dogs and are considered a “resistant host.” Heartworm larvae are transmitted by infected mosquitoes and the adult worms live in or near to the pets heart. The offspring are released into the blood, this means that they may be picked up by other mosquitoes and transmitted to other pets. Signs of a heartworm infestation include: lethargy, coughing, extreme weight loss, shortness of breath and even collapse. Keeping your pets on a preventative medication year round will help protect them from contracting heartworms.


Giardia is a protozoan parasite that can infect your pet’s gastrointestinal tract and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy. However, some pets may not show any signs or symptoms. It is very common in the United States and can cause infections almost any time during the year. Giardia, unlike many other infectious organisms, thrives for longer periods of time when the conditions are cool and moist. Most dogs are infected by drinking water that is contaminated with feces.

Protozoan Parasites

Toxoplasmosis is a disease that is caused by a protozoan parasite living in your pet’s intestines. This disease is rarely a fatal one, but it can cause secondary health issues such as extreme diarrhea. Your pet can get toxoplasmosis by eating uncooked meats; this includes rodents. Some pets may show no signs of the zoonotic disease but can pass it on to humans by coming into contact with infected animal feces. Make sure to take proper precautions when handling infected feces by wearing gloves, using a poop scoop (make sure to thoroughly disinfect) or doggie bags which you should dispose of properly. As this is a zoonotic disease, humans are susceptible to contracting the disease, especially pregnant women. The disease can affect the health and well-being of the unborn child which can cause serious birth defects and illness.

External Parasites in Dogs

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Ear Mites
  • Mange Mites

External Parasites in Cats

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Ear Mites
  • Mange Mites

Fighting Fleas

Is your pet scratching? This could be an indicator that your pet may have fleas.

Protecting your Pet:

Fleas are more than just a nuisance. They are blood-sucking parasites that can cause severe anemia and if left untreated in severe cases, even death. If your pet swallows an infected flea, it can transmit tapeworms. Both cats and dogs can develop allergic reactions from fleabites which can often result in a secondary bacterial infection that can be painful and hard to cure, severe skin irritation, and can lead to hair loss from scratching. We recommend year round flea prevention through oral or topical preventatives.

Protecting your Home:

To control fleas, you must kill the ones living in your home as well as the ones living on your pet. You can use a room fogger or flea spray, or you can hire a professional exterminator. You will need to vacuum all of the carpets and crevices in your home on a regular basis and make sure to dispose of the vacuum bags so the flea eggs won’t hatch and re-infest the house. Remember to also treat your pet’s bedding thoroughly.

Tackling Ticks

Because ticks can cause disease, you should check your pets for ticks regularly, especially during warm weather if your pet spends time outside. Adult ticks will attach themselves to your pet’s skin using their mouths and will begin feeding on your pets blood. Humans are at risk for tick-borne diseases, as well as pets. Lymes disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSP), Stari virus (southern tick-associated rash illness), and Ehrlichiosis, just to name a few, can be transmitted by an infected tick and it can cause serious illness. Even though most of these diseases can be medically treated, it is best to remove ticks as soon you see them on your pet. You can always ask your veterinarian about the best treatments available for both fleas and ticks.  Contact Paw Prints if you think your pet may have been bitten by an infected tick.

Eliminating Ear Mites and Sacking Mange Mites

If your pet is constantly scratching, shaking, or pawing at it’s head, has raw spots on it’s ears or if you find any material resembling dried blood, your pet just might have ear mites. To detect these pests you can check your pet’s ears for dark-colored ear wax, or material resembling coffee grounds or dried blood; even a foul odor can be an indication of ear mites. If your pet has ear mites and it is left untreated this can result in infections. Ear mites can be transmitted from one pet to another, so if you have one pet that has ear mites, make sure to take the proper precautions and keep the infected pet away from the others.

There are two types of skin mites- sarcoptic and demodectic. Both of these mites can cause mange. If you notice your pet is itching, has patchy hair loss, or has skin lesions, make sure to contact Paw Prints because even though demodectic mange is not contagious, sarcoptic mange is, even to humans.

Contact Paw Prints Veterinary Hospital if you are concerned about internal or external parasites! Keeping your pets on year round flea and tick preventative and heartworm preventative, along with an annual or biannual parasite screen will help protect them from these nasty parasites!

Call us today at 918-250-0883 about the preventatives we offer. 

Keep your pets happy and healthy!

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