Animal Health Center  >  All Things Animal  >  Parasites
NJ Veterinary Medical Association
390 Amwell Road, Suite 402
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Phone:  908-281-0918
Fax:  908-450-1286

Ticks, fleas, and worms are a few of the things that can cause illness in our pets and make them uncomfortable. Learn about these parasites and ways to prevent them.

Dear Veterinarian:
Harvey, my poodle, has a flea problem. I've given him bath after bath but I just can't seem to get rid of the fleas. The poor dog seems miserable; what else can I do?

Dear Pet Owner:
Shampooing Harvey can help; but as you have found, it is not an effective means of flea control. The bath will help kill fleas on your dog but any additional fleas in the environment will ultimately end up back on Harvey. Therefore you need to use flea products that have a residual effect. Your veterinarian can recommend a topical spot-on product that is applied to the skin on the back of Harvey's neck. This product will kill fleas soon after it is applied and will continue to kill them for at least 30 days. I would suggest you treat Harvey for at least 3 months. It is important that any other cats and dogs in the home be treated as well.

In addition you should consider treating your indoor environment. Your veterinarian can recommend effective premise sprays for this purpose. Products that kill multiple stages of the flea life cycle are the most effective. These products usually contain an adultacide, a chemical that kills adult fleas quickly and an insect growth regulator (IGR) that kills flea eggs and larvae. You need only treat rooms to which Harvey has access. Go room by room doing a thorough vacuuming of the floors and baseboards prior to applying the spray. Once the spray has dried it is safe for family members and Harvey to enter the room. If Harvey spends a great deal of time on a favorite chair you may want to treat it as well. Many sprays can be used on furniture but you should read the label carefully. You may want to test spray a small hidden area of the chair to ensure that the fabric colors do not run. Finally, Harvey's bedding should also be treated. You may do this by spraying it or laundering it with hot soapy water.

Treating both pet and environment over an extended period of time should rid Harvey of his flea problem. As a final note, there is an oral product that can be given on a monthly basis to help prevent a recurrence of flea infestations. You should contact your veterinarian for details.


Dear Veterinarian:
My veterinarian is recommending a fecal exam two times a year. What is he looking for and why should I go through this expense?

Dear Pet Owner:
Your veterinarian is practicing good preventative medicine for your pet and at the same time, protecting you and your family. An annual fecal (stool) examination is a part of any good pet health plan. Some common parasites that could affect your pet's health are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted to you and your family. Keeping a very clean environment (use that pooper scooper!) and maintaining good hygiene are also very important. Here are some parasites to be aware of:

Whipworms – Tiny threadlike worms found in the large intestine of dogs. They can cause bloody diarrhea and colitis if left untreated. Microscopic eggs are passed in the stool of infected dogs. Your dog may ingest them by licking his feet after walking through the soil where the eggs have been deposited.

Roundworms – Large, long worms found in the stomach and small intestines of infected animals. They cam cause a "pot belly", especially in young animals, loose stool, and weight loss. Animals can contract these worms through the mother's placenta before being born. Adult pets become infected by ingesting eggs or by ingesting rodents infected with dormant larvae. If people accidentally ingest the microscopic eggs through contact with infected soil or pet's feces, the worms can migrate through the human body. One serious result is blindness if the larva settles in the eye.

Hookworms – These tiny parasites suck the blood of their host by attaching to the small intestinal lining. This parasite is transmitted through the colostrums or first milk to newborn pets or through skin penetration. Untreated, this parasite can cause a severe anemia, poor appetite, coughing and a generalized loss of condition. If a person happened to have contact with soil where the larvae are developing, the microscopic larva could potentially penetrate through the skin. There can be migration of the larva causing an eruption in the human skin.

Tapeworms – A long flat segmented worm transmitted by ingesting rabbits or rodents or, more commonly, by ingesting fleas. There can be mild weight loss. The appearance of worm segments around the rectum of infected pets or on furniture is how they are usually diagnosed. The segments can look like small pieces of rice or sesame seeds. Flea control must be a part of the treatment program to prevent re-infestation. The segments passed from dogs and cats are not infective to humans. Humans get tapeworms from other sources.

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