Young animals can’t fight parasites off very well until their immunity improves with age. Roundworms, coccidia, and giardia love to take advantage of a young, defenseless bowel and cause inflammation and diarrhea, as well as multiply and spread to other victims. Worming and the use of medicines directed against these bugs will prevent severe infections and spread of these parasites.
Of course, we have to know which bug or parasite may be invading our young kitten or puppy to treat it. Checking the feces for a particular infection will help us decide what drug to use. Most puppies or kittens are usually wormed or treated for parasites by the breeder, shelter, or pet store with panacur, drontal, albon, or metronidiazole. So most young puppies and kittens are treated for roundworms, giardia, and coccidia before they even arrive at the veterinary hospital. However not all of the youngsters may have received the right dosage, the right medication for the particular bug or worm they are carrying, or may have become re-infected after treatment.
A fresh fecal sample may help us identify which puppies or kittens still are infected or became infected after treatment. This sample may contain some eggs, cysts, or parasites we can identify under the microscope. A fresh fecal sample can be checked for bugs by diluting a small amount on a slide and looking at it. This is a screening method known as “direct smear”. A “fecal float” means putting a bit of the sample in a solution that “floats” the worm eggs, coccidia, or giardia cysts to the surface of the container where they can be “captured” by a cover slip. Diluted poop that is spread out on a slide makes it easier to identify worm eggs, coccidia, and giardia. A “float” concentrates the numbers and makes it easier yet. With that information we then know which wormers or other drugs will help prevent or control medical conditions and diarrhea.
With all that said, most puppies and kittens usually rid themselves of unwanted worms and bugs with two to three treatments spaced between 6-12 weeks of age. On the other hand, puppies and kittens in high density populations tend to be “barraged” by more than one bug or worm and may require multiple types of mediation and more frequency of treatment depending on the infection. Examples are large breeding operations, shelters, and pet stores where worms, giardia, and coccidia are often passed around simultaneously. Preventative worming and treatment for giardia and coccidia is commonplace in these situations. In addition some worms need broad spectrum wormers. For example, hookworms are harder to kill then other roundworms and tapeworms need a different wormer than roundworms.
Diarrhea in adult dogs and cats is usually caused by changes in the ingredients of the food, a new treat or chew, or ingesting a piece of rubber, plastic, thread, foil, toy, wood, rock, spoiled food, carcass, poop, or parasites like giardia. Irritation to the bowel by allergens, stuff that shouldn’t be in there, or infections can cause that uneasy feeling and “the runs”. Adult animals can pick up a giardia or tapeworm infection from their surroundings or from fleas. Both can cause diarrhea, but can be easily treated. Giardia can be diagnosed with ELISA “snap test” or under the microscope. Tapeworm segments are usually spotted crawling around the butt area. Adults are rarely affected by intestinal roundworms like young animals. The scooting and weight loss in adult animals that is often attributed to worms is usually caused by irritated anal glands, food allergies, and medical problems like diabetes.
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