Were You Smarter Than a Vet Student About Intestinal Parasites (Worms)?

Photo Credit: Danielle Rowland

Photo Credit: Danielle Rowland

Thanks to everyone who sent your responses to me. The winner in the book drawing is Wanda Woodworth from Little Elm, Texas. She will be receiving a copy of Speaking for Spot.

Now, here are the answers you’ve been waiting for.

  1. Dogs are susceptible to all but which one of the following parasites?
    1. a. protozoa
    2. b. pinworms
    3. c. stomach worms
    4. d. whipworms

People get pinworms, but dogs do not. Dogs are, however, susceptible to whipworms, coccidia (which are protozoa), and stomach worms.

  1. Which of these parasites is not transmissible between dogs and cats by way of their feces?
    1. Roundworms
    2. Coccidia
    3. Tapeworms
    4. Giardia

Fleas carry tapeworm eggs and are the primary source of transmission of tapeworms. When dogs inadvertently ingest fleas during grooming or chewing at their skin, tapeworm infection occurs. Roundworms, coccidia, and giardia are transmitted between dogs and cats via their feces.

  1. Which parasite is least likely to shed eggs that will show up in a fecal flotation (microscopic evaluation of the feces)?
    1. Roundworms
    2. Hookworms
    3. Coccidia
    4. Tapeworms

Tapeworms are exceptionally stingy about shedding their eggs so they rarely show up in a fecal flotation, the annual recommended screening test for parasites. The best way to diagnose this parasite is by seeing tapeworm segments around the dog’s anus (when dried, they look like small sesame seeds). Roundworms, hookworms, and coccidia are readily diagnosed by the presence of their eggs in the stool sample.

  1. Puppies are commonly infected with roundworms because of which of the following?
    1. Larvae (young stages of the worms) can be transferred to the puppies while they are in the uterus.
    2. Interactions between puppies transmit parasites from one to another.
    3. Larvae can be transferred to the pup through the mother’s milk.
    4. All of the above.

Yep, puppies are true targets of roundworm infection because of the combination of mechanisms listed above. Even if the mama dog has tested negative for parasites, pregnancy is likely to activate latent encysted stages of roundworms within her body.

  1. Which species can transmit a potentially lethal form of roundworms to dogs?
    1. Raccoon
    2. Fox
    3. Horse
    4. Squirrel

The roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) occurs in raccoons throughout the United States and Canada. Although unommon, this parasite can cause life ending neurological disease in dogs. Infection can occur when a dog has access to raccoon feces. Monthly deworming medication (commonly combined with heartworm prevention) is protective. Given the number of dogs who love to eat horse poop (mine included), thank goodness the eggs ingested this way are harmless.

  1. Tapeworms commonly cause:
    1. Diarrhea
    2. Weight loss
    3. Itching around the anus
    4. All of the above

The notion that tapeworms rob the body of nutrition is nothing more than an old wives’ tale. (Why are their no old husbands’ tales?) They cause neither weight loss nor diarrhea. As tapeworm segments migrate out through the anus, they create an itchy sensation for the dog resulting in scooting and licking and chewing at the anus. Close visual inspection will reveal small dried tapeworm segments in the fur around the anus.

  1. Which canine intestinal parasites are zoonotic (can cause health concerns in people?)?
    1. Roundworms
    2. Hookworms
    3. Giardia
    4. All of the above

Roundworm eggs are problematic for people (most commonly children) who accidentally ingest roundworm eggs. The larvae that develop from the eggs can migrate, most commonly to the retina resulting in blindness. This syndrome is referred to as ocular larva migrans. Hookworm larvae found in dirt or sand can invade human skin, most commonly the soles of the feet, resulting in an irritated rash. When giardia eggs are inadvertently eaten, gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, intestinal cramping, and diarrhea can occur.

  1. Which statement is true pertaining to over-the-counter dewormers?
    1. They typically include medications effective against most types of intestinal parasites.
    2. They are just as effective as those prescribed by a veterinarian.
    3. When used regularly, they can take the place of an annual stool check (fecal flotation).
    4. They can be a huge waste of your money.

While it’s tempting to purchase over-the-counter dewormers for purposes of price and convenience, I discourage you from doing so. There is little guarantee of effectiveness. Most contain just one type of medication, yet different parasites require different deworming drugs. For example, coccidia, tapeworms, and roundworms each require a different medication to be cleared from the body. Additionally, recommended dosages may be inaccurate.

How did you do? What topic would you like to see featured in the next, “Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student” quiz?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


Be Sociable, Share!

2 Comments on “Were You Smarter Than a Vet Student About Intestinal Parasites (Worms)?

  1. Hi Anna,

    All parasites have a lifespan. Your veterinarian’s thinking is that, given the flea control, your dog won’t be infected with any more tapeworms, and ultimately, the current tapeworm population will die off. As long as they are not causing any problems, the actions recommended to you make a lot of sense. If, from an aesthetic point of view you would like to be rid of the current tapeworm population, deworming is a reasonable course of action. Hope this helps!

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy

  2. I found a tapeworm in my dog’s stool not long ago and my Holistic/Traditional Vet verified that it was tapeworm. She recommended to apply flea control and they would just go away. I did that, but also question whether this is actually true. I am new to the Holistic aspect of VM and just wanted to get your opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *