Nearly all dogs and cats will become infested with gastrointestinal parasites at some point in their lives, and because of the life cycle of most parasites, it doesn’t make a difference where the animals live. Outdoors or inside, animals in either environment run the risk of becoming infected.

Signs of Parasites

Parasites can live in their host without causing serious problems, but when the numbers of parasites begin to grow, certain clinical signs of illness become evident, for example:

  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rough hair coat
  • Cats sometimes show a protrusion of the third eyelid

Puppies and Kittens

It is very typical for young animals to be infested with gastrointestinal parasites. Found in both puppies and kittens, ascarids can be acquired in utero, through a mother’s milk or by ingesting the eggs. Because young animals have less resistance to parasites, heavy infestations can lead to severe physical debility or even death.

Deworming Medications

Deworming medications are often effective against more than one species of parasitic worms, but the safest and most effective way to choose the correct worming medication is to have a stool sample of the pet examined. The examination will determine the type of parasite and its stage of life, and that information will help to determine the type of medication to use.

Ways to Control Parasites in the Environment

Parasites such as the tapeworm and ascarid spend various parts of their life cycle in hosts, for example, roaches, fleas, lice and rodents; and, when one animal is found to be infested, chances are high that all animals living in the household will need to be treated. 

Even after undergoing the deworming process, pets still run the risk of becoming infested again. In fact, the life cycle of most parasites increases the odds that this will occur. In order to keep re-infestation from happening, the eggs and larvae must be destroyed and the life cycle hosts should be eliminated from the environment.

Household Control

  • Thoroughly clean bedding with insecticides.
  • Disinfect all the places where the animals sleep, apply insecticide.
  • Vacuum carpets, curtains, furniture and dispose of dirt immediately.
  • Steam clean carpets – insecticides can be added into the water and this is highly effective in killing the eggs and larvae.
  • Mop floors with disinfectant, pay close attention to crevices where eggs may incubate.
  • Natural products that can help eliminate fleas include: boric acid compounds and diatomaceous earth.
  • In cases of severe infestation, contact a professional exterminator.

Outdoor Control

  • Disinfect kennels, runs, and other areas where pets sleep; use insecticide deemed safe for use around animals.
  • Avoid dirt runs in kennels as they provide excellent conditions for the life cycle of most worms.
  • Kennels with a base of concrete or gravel will work better because:
    • Both are easier to keep clean.
    • Both can be hosed down and disinfected.
    • Key is to remove stool wasted daily.
  • Spray insecticide on gardens, lawns and kennels.
  • Spread diatomaceous earth in areas where animals stay.
  • Introduce beneficial nematodes that eat flea larvae to the yard.
  • Remove all decaying vegetation that attracts rodents and certain host insects.
  • Remove all leftover pet food to discourage rodents that may be re-infesting the yard with fleas.

When choosing worming medicines and insecticides, remember that these items are poisonous and the safety precautions should be read and instructions should be adhered to closely. Visit our deworming page for more information and our selection of veterinary recommended dewormers.

To Your Pet's Good Health,

Barry Miller DVM