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Posts Tagged ‘Whipworms’

Today I get to share with you something we (fortunately) don’t see very often on fecal exams – Whipworm eggs. Those are the pink football-shaped objects in the photo below.

A rare sight in Norfolk: evidence of Whipworm infestation. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic. [Click to enlarge]

INTESTINAL ILLNESS

What’s so awful about Whipworms?
An infection can lead to diarrhea (sometimes with blood), weight loss, abdominal pain, dehydration and anemia. 

Whipworms (so named for their whip-like appearance as adults: thin at the front end and fatter at the rear) are not the most common intestinal parasite that we find in dogs, but it is a nasty little bug if contracted. Whipworms are rarely seen in cats.

Whipworm eggs are deposited in the soil when an infected animal defecates. When the same or another animal ingests the contaminated soil (this can happen by mouthing a toy left on the ground or licking the paws after playing outside), the infection begins again.

LIFE CYCLE

Once swallowed, the eggs hatch out and the larvae spend about 10 days in the small intestines before moving on to the large intestines. Then the larvae spend the next two to three months maturing to adulthood.

Adult whipworms use their narrow heads to pierce your pet’s intestinal walls and hang on, then rob your pet of its blood and nutrients. By the 70th day after the initial Whipworm eggs were swallowed, the adult Whips are ready to produce new eggs.

The adult female Whipworm can lay up to 2000 eggs per day. That is actually a small number, compared to a Roundworm that can lay 80,000 eggs per day. Because Whipworms lay a relatively few number of eggs and do not constantly reproduce, they can be difficult to detect. Multiple stool sample exams may be necessary. 

PREVENTION AND CONTROL

Whipworm eggs are hardy and difficult to eradicate in the yard, so recurrent infections are likely.
O
nce diagnosed, a Whipworm infection can be treated with a course of medication, such as Panacur.
Then, because of the high likelihood of recurrence, affected dogs and their canine housemates should receive a monthly heartworm/intestinal worm preventative rated to control Whips. Our go-to choice has been Sentinel, but it is not currently available. Until Sentinel is returned to the marketplace, we recommend Trifexis.

LOW ZOONOTIC POTENTIAL

The most common type of Whipworms found in dogs is Trichuris vulpis. Though they tend to be host-specific, there are a few reported cases of people contracting Trichuris vulpis, as well. To be on the safe side, wear disposable gloves when handling soil or pet waste and wash your hands well afterward.

See our previous entries in our ‘Scope series:

Roundworms

Hookworms

Tapeworms

Coccidiae

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     If you’ve been following along lately, you know I have worms on the brain.  No, not literally, but we’ve seen several wormy dogs lately and that has provided me the opportunity to share with you photos of intestinal worm eggs as seen through our microscope.  First, I shared pictures of the elusive Tapeworm egg, then I followed up with a post on Hookworm eggs.

     I’d hate for the Roundworm bunch to feel left out, and today they don’t have to.  Our microscopic exam of a puppy’s stool sample yielded bunches of Hookworms and a few Roundworms.  I was surprised at how few Rounds we were seeing, especially since the owner had a camera-phone pic of an adult worm that the puppy had passed the night before.  Still, I was able to capture one of the little fellas on “film.”

Roundworm egg outnumbered by Hookworm eggs. Photo by Jennifer Miele

     And a close-up of our subject:

Single Roundworm egg with two Hookworm egg buddies. Photo by Jennifer Miele

     As I mentioned in previous posts on the topic, we do find it significant that both untreated adult dogs and puppies are showing intestinal worm infestation during the winter months.  This means it is not safe to let one’s guard down and discontinue heartworm/intestinal worm preventative medications in the cold-weather.  Visit the Tapeworm post and scroll down to learn about the types of heartworm/intestinal worm preventatives we carry.

     Like Hookworms, Roundworms are zoonotic, meaning they prefer animal hosts but will infect humans when possible.  Children are most likely to become infected because they may play in dirt and sandboxes where animals have relieved themselves.  During play, a child may stick his fingers in his mouth and ingest the worm eggs. 

     Take steps to protect your family: 

  • Sandboxes should be kept covered when not in use so that cats and other animals do not use them as a toilet. 
  • Dogs should be trained to defecate in one area of the yard, which is then off-limits for play by both animals and people and off-limits for gardening. 
  • Children and adults should not walk barefoot through contaminated yards, and gardeners should wear gloves while working. 
  • Remove fecal waste from the yard as soon as it is deposited, and do not use it in compost. 
  • Wash well after handling your cat or dog and after working in the yard, especially before preparing meals. 
  • Clean your pet’s outdoor toys and dishes daily.

     Now, if we’re all very lucky, I will bring you future posts featuring photographs of Whipworm eggs and Coccidiae.  Fingers crossed!   ~~  Jen

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     Most pet owners are familiar with the decidedly unglamorous chore of collecting their pet’s stool sample at the request of their veterinarian.  It is not uncommon for the squeamish to try to find a loophole that will allow them to sidestep such an onerous (not to mention odiferous) task.  I can’t say I blame them.  But of all the excuses one could use, this one is the least effective:  “I check my pet’s stool every day and I never see any worms.”

     My typical response is:  “Of all the parasites your pet can have, you may only ever see the adult versions of Tapeworms and Roundworms.  But you won’t see Hookworms, Whipworms, Giardia, or Coccidia, which are shed in microscopic egg form.” 

     The only way for us to discover a microscopic parasite, of course, is to examine the stool under a microscope.  And trust me, it is equally glamorous – if not more so – than your job of collecting, bagging, and transporting the sample. 

     A few weeks ago, I blogged about The Holy Grail of Microscope Slides, i.e. Tapeworm eggs.  I mentioned that Tapeworm eggs are a rarity on fecal exams, as compared to Roundworms and Hookworms.  I then posted a photo of a single lonely, lost little Hookworm egg from the same sample and noted how unusual it was that the Tapes outnumbered the Hooks.

     Today, I am pleased to present you with a photograph of a more typical sight.  Behold:

Hookworm eggs from a dog that is not on a heartworm/intestinal worm preventative.

     That’s a lot of Hookworm eggs for an adult dog.  However, if this were a puppy’s sample, the entire slide would be covered by those eggs.  Stop eating your dinner and think about that for a minute.

     Hookworms attach to your pet’s intestinal walls with – what else? – hooks in their disgusting little mouths.  A Hookworm infestation can lead to severe blood loss (fatal in untreated pups and kittens), bloody diarrhea, anemia and dehydration.  And if that weren’t bad enough, Hookworms are a zoonotic parasite, meaning people can get them, too.

     Dr. Miele has long been a proponent of year-round heartworm/intestinal worm preventative medication.  Why?  The proof is in the stool sample.  It is cold outside, but not cold enough to freeze the parasites.  The Hookworm eggs shown above were photographed at our office on February 4th.  

     Heartworm preventative medications are proven safe for year-round use.  When given as directed, the medications serve to protect your pets and your family from dangerous parasites.  As always, your dog must have a blood test to rule out active heartworm infestation before beginning a preventative medication.  ~~  Jen

     Just For Fun
     What do you think these round things might be?  Click the photo to enlarge and take your best guess.  I’ll post the answer in the comments sections tomorrow.
 

Click on photo to enlarge

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A single Tapeworm egg packet. Photo by Jennifer Miele.

Of  all the worm eggs we search for under a microscope, the elusive Tapeworm egg is the most difficult to detect.  Not because of its size, mind you – these things are huge compared to other worm eggs.  The problem is, there tend to be so darn few Tapeworm eggs, we rarely see them.  By contrast, a mild Roundworm or Hookworm infestation can result in a slide saturated with eggs.  You are more likely to see Tapeworm segments on your pet’s fur than we are to find eggs in a fecal sample.

In fact, the segments you see on your pet’s fur are called proglottids, and they function as egg sacs. As these pieces detach from the larger worm still inside your pet (yuck), they may start releasing their eggs, which then appear (microscopically speaking) in your pet’s stool. Because of this, you will often see the proglottids before the vet has a chance to check a stool sample and find the eggs.

     Recently, though, we got lucky.  A pet presented with an infestation of Tapeworms, which provided me the opportunity to photograph the egg packet shown above.  Below, you will see something even more rare.

Five Tapeworm eggs as viewed through a microscope. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Okay, I admit it’s pretty silly to get excited over something so gross.  In fact, I hope you’re not eating lunch or dinner as you read this.  After the worming we gave, these little guys won’t be eating lunch or dinner, either.  Meanwhile, we seldom see so many egg packets together in one frame, which is why I consider this slide “rare.”

     The fun didn’t end there, however.  Once the sample had time to float all eggs to the surface, we found a couple of these guys trying to sneak by:

 

Mystery slide. Photo by Jennifer Miele

What’s that?  A little hard to see, compared to the Tapeworm eggs?  This little dude is shown at the same magnification as his giant neighbors.  To make it easy on you, I’ll crop it and show you what we’re looking at.

Hookworm egg. Photo by Jennifer Miele

       It’s a Hookworm egg.  How adorable.  I found only a couple of these eggs on the slide.  All I can figure is that the Tapeworms had a head start and were beating up on the hapless Hookworms that showed up late to dinner.

     Imagine the Worm Wars taking place inside your pet.  Not a pretty picture, is it?  If your pet is not already on a monthly heartworm/intestinal worm preventative medication, now is the time to act.  Have your dog’s blood tested first; it should be free of heartworm disease before starting any of the preventatives.  Cats and dogs should have their stool tested for intestinal worms, as well.  Any adult worm infestations should be treated by the vet.

     Check out our favorite heartworm and intestinal worm preventative medications:

Revolution for Cats……….treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, fleas, ear mites

Iverhart Plus for Dogs……treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms

Iverhart Max for Dogs……treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms

HeartGard Plus for Dogs……treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms

Sentinel for Dogs…….treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, fleas

     Questions?  Call Jennifer at 583-2619.  Happy worming!

 

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