Intestinal parasites are a pain in the rear. Whether actual worms or smaller protozoans, these freeloaders can cause abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, dehydration, bloody stools, abdominal bloating, vomiting, and in extreme cases death. In some cases they can be passed to other family members, both human and pet. Some types are harder to be rid of than others which is why regular vet visits and fecal checks are so important.
Dogs or cats scooting their rears around can have an itch, overly full anal glands, or worms tickling their hineys. What appear to be grains of rice in your pet’s feces that on closer inspection seem to be moving are in fact tapeworm segments. Longer strands in piles of doo that resemble spaghetti noodles are roundworms. Whipworms, hookworms, giardia, and several other types of parasites are only found through microscopic examination of a pet’s stool. They are too small to be seen, but it is important to find and treat them before symptoms begin to set in. It is much easier to rid your pet of them the sooner you find them.
Sometimes pet owners say, “My pet doesn’t have worms! I would see them. We don’t need to do a fecal check.” Unfortunately there is no way to be 100% certain that there is nothing residing in your pet’s intestinal tract and making him sick without checking for microscopic eggs. (With tapeworms, the eggs aren’t commonly found, so be sure to alert your vet to the presence of any “rice” segments you’ve found in stool!) Once your dog or cat does start showing symptoms, he may need anti-nausea medication, I.V. fluids, or treatment for diarrhea. It is much easier to treat these pests in the early stages than once they’ve manifested as illness.
If you have questions, please call your veterinarian. Keep your pets in great shape nose-to-tail with regular checkups, vaccination, and fecal exams!
There is more information at petmd, with details on what can happen if your pet transmits worms to other members of your family.