Worms in the Stool

Stool exams are always important in the evaluation of your pet’s health. There are some intestinal worms we can easily see with the naked eye, such as Roundworms (resemble spaghetti noodles), Tapeworms (resemble beads on a string), and Tapeworm segments (resemble pieces of rice). However, there are also intestinal worms we usually cannot see, such as Hookworms and Whipworms, so we depend on microscopic examinations to fully evaluate a stool sample. Here is a brief description and some important information regarding intestinal worms, whose eggs are commonly seen in microscopic stool exams at Little Mountain Veterinary Clinic.

Roundworms

If you see worms in your pet’s stool or vomit that look like spaghetti noodles, these are Roundworms, which are the most common intestinal parasite we see. Signs of Roundworm infection include diarrhea, vomiting, and/or a “potbelly” appearance. These signs are most severe in puppies and kittens and can be life threatening. Deworming medications that we have at Little Mountain Veterinary Clinic are extremely effective for treating Roundworm infections. We also carry heartworm preventatives, which will prevent future Roundworms infestations.

How Can My Pet Get Roundworms?

Roundworms live in the small intestine of dogs and cats. Mature female Roundworms lay eggs that are passed in your pet’s stool. In the right environmental conditions, these eggs mature and become infectious to other animals. Roundworm eggs are extremely resistant to adverse conditions and may contaminate the environment for years. Your pet may get Roundworms by:

  1. Grooming themselves after spending time outside or near contaminated litter boxes.
  2. Eating insects and animals such as rodents, rabbits, birds, etc. infected with larvae (immature Roundworms).
  3. Roundworm larvae can be transmitted to puppies and kittens through their mother’s milk.
  4. In dogs, Roundworm larvae can cross the placenta and infect puppies even before they are born.

How to Tell If My Pet Has Roundworms:

  1. Seeing worms in vomit or stool sample.
  2. Examining stool sample under microscope for Roundworm eggs.
  3. A young animal with no deworming history most likely has Roundworms that he/she got from their mother.

How to Prevent/Control Roundworms:

  1. Deworm as needed.
  2. Remove feces daily from litter boxes, yards, and kennels.
  3. Control scavenging and hunting behaviors as much as possible.
  4. Give your pet a heartworm preventative year round on a monthly basis. Interceptor or Sentinel for dogs, or Heartgard for cats.

Not only can Roundworms be life threatening for your pet, but people can also become infected with Roundworm larvae. This infection is called Visceral and Ocular Larva Migrans, and occurs most commonly in children who eat dirt contaminated with Roundworm eggs.

Hookworms

Hookworms are also a very common intestinal parasite, but they are too small to be seen with the naked eye. They hook into the wall of the small intestine and will suck the blood out of your pet. Hookworms can cause diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and life threatening anemia (blood loss). Deworming medications that we have at Little Mountain Veterinary Clinic are extremely effective for treating Hookworm infections. We also carry heartworm preventatives, which will prevent future Hookworm infestations.

How Can Your Pet Get Hookworms?

Hookworms live in the small intestine and mature female Hookworms lay large numbers of eggs that are passed in your pet’s stool. In favorable conditions, the eggs hatch and release larvae (immature hookworms). Larvae migrate to the soil surface or to the tops of blades of grass, where they wait to be eaten by your pet. The larvae can even penetrate your pet’s skin, usually between the toes. Puppies and kittens can also become infected by Hookworm larvae through their mother’s milk.

How to Diagnose Hookworms:

  1. Since we can’t see hookworms with the naked eye, we depend on microscopic examination of a stool sample to check for Hookworm eggs.
  2. An anemic pet with no history of deworming may be suspicion of having Hookworms.

How to Prevent/Control Hookworms:

  1. Deworm as needed.
  2. Remove feces daily from litter boxes, yards, and kennels.
  3. Do not allow access to areas where free-roaming animals have bowel movements.
  4. Giving heartworm preventative round on a monthly basis. Interceptor or Sentinel for dogs, or Heartgard for cats.

Hookworms can not only be life threatening to your pet, but human infections have also been reported. Hookworm larvae can penetrate human skin between the toes, causing a disease called Cutaneous Larva Migrans. Usually, this disease occurs in children who walk barefooted in contaminated areas.

Whipworms

Whipworms look like pieces of thread, but upon closer inspection, they have a slender end and a thick end, so they resemble a whip. In my 20+ years of practice, I can count the number of times I have seen adult Whipworms in a stool sample on one hand. However, several times I have seen Whipworms make a dog as sick as a dog with Parvovirus having profuse bloody diarrhea. Signs of Whipworm infection in dogs include chronic diarrhea, anemia, and weight loss. Deworming medications that we have at Little Mountain Veterinary Clinic are extremely effective for treating Whipworm infections. We also carry heartworm preventatives, which will prevent future Whipworm infestations.

How Can My Dog Get Whipworms?

Whereas Roundworms and Hookworms live in the small intestine of dogs and cats, Whipworms attach to the colon and cecum of dogs only and feed on tissue fluid and blood. The adult female Whipworm may lay 2000 or more eggs per day that are passed in your dog’s stool. In optimal conditions, larvae (immature Whipworms) develop within the eggs. Your dog acquires Whipworms when they ingest soil contaminated with eggs containing infectious larvae. These larvae develop in the digestive tract for about 90 days before they become adults.

How to Diagnose Whipworms:

  1. Since it is rare to see adult Whipworms in the stool, we depend on microscopic examination to check for eggs.
  2. An adult dog with bloody diarrhea that is not on a heartworm preventative that also prevents Whipworms is suspicious of having such worms.

How to Prevent/Control Whipworms:

  1. Deworm as needed.
  2. Remove feces daily from yards and kennels.
  3. Give a heartworm preventative such as Interceptor or Sentinel year round on a monthly basis.

Tapeworms

Tapeworm segments can look like pieces of rice and can be seen in your pet’s stool or in the hair coat around the anus. Normally, Tapeworms are not especially harmful unless they are present in large numbers, in which they may cause diarrhea. The Tapeworm segments may crawl out of a dog’s anus and irritate the surrounding area causing a dog to drag its bottom (scoot) on the ground or floor. Deworming medications that we have at Little Mountain Veterinary Clinic are extremely effective for treating Tapeworm infections. Tapeworms are not preventable by heartworm preventatives like most other worms in the stool (Roundworms, Hookworms, and Whipworms).

How Can My Pet Get Tapeworms?

Adult Tapeworms live in the small intestine of dogs and cats. The bodies of these Tapeworms are composed of segments, which upon maturity fill with eggs, and detach from the rest of the Tapeworm. The worms then crawl out of your pet’s body through the anus, or are expelled with the stool. The eggs in the segments are eaten by fleas, rodents, wild rabbits, or farm animals.
Your pet may get Tapeworms by:

  1. Accidentally ingesting a flea containing an infectious Tapeworm.
  2. Eating contaminated (raw) meat from wildlife (rabbits, mice, or rats) or farm animals (sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs).

How to Diagnose Tapeworms:

  1. We may not always see Tapeworm eggs on a microscopic stool exam, so we depend on our clients to tell us if they are seeing rice-like worms in their pet’s stool.
  2. Sometimes we see these rice-like worms on your pet’s hair coat near the anus.
  3. Access to rabbits or rodents, or being fed a raw meat diet would be suspicion of a possible Tapeworm infection.
  4. A flea infestation of your pet and its environment would be suspicion of a possible Tapeworm infection.
  5. An ongoing scooting problem, even though the anal glands have been expressed, would be suspicion of a possible Tapeworm infection.

How to Prevent Tapeworms:

  1. Control your pet’s hunting habits.
  2. Raw meat should not be fed.
  3. Eliminate fleas from your pet and its environment.

In Conclusion

Some of these intestinal worms may only be irritating, but others can be life threatening to your pet. Your pet’s health is extremely important to us at Little Mountain Veterinary Clinic. Please call for an appointment to schedule a microscopic fecal examination.