Ask the Expert: Your Most Frequently Asked Questions on Pet Parasites Answered by a Vet

Welcome, pet owners! Keeping our furry friends healthy is an important task, and one aspect of pet health that can be confusing and overwhelming is dealing with pet parasites. Well, fear not, for this article will answer your most frequently asked questions about pet parasites and help you become a more equipped and informed pet parent. 

A Brief Overview of Pet Parasites

First, let’s talk about the two main parasites affecting pets: internal and external. Internal parasites live inside your pet’s body and include various types of worms and protozoan organisms. External parasites, on the other hand, live outside your pet’s body and include pests like fleas, ticks, and mites. 

Left unchecked, these parasites can cause various health issues for your pets, so addressing them is crucial.

Common Internal Parasites in Pets


Roundworms are a type of intestinal worm that can infect both dogs and cats. They are often transmitted through ingesting infected feces or via the mother during pregnancy or nursing.


Tapeworms are long, flat worms that live in the intestines of pets and are primarily transmitted through ingesting infected fleas.


Hookworms are small, thin worms that attach themselves to the intestine lining in cats and dogs. They can cause anemia and can be transmitted through ingestion of infected feces or via the skin.


Whipworms are worms that infect dogs, residing primarily in the large intestine. They are typically transmitted through ingestion of contaminated soil or feces.


Heartworms are a dangerous and potentially deadly parasite infecting dogs and cats. They are transmitted via mosquito bites and live inside infected animals’ hearts and blood vessels.

Giardia and Coccidia

These protozoan parasites can infect both dogs and cats, causing gastrointestinal issues. They are typically transmitted through ingesting contaminated water, food, or feces.

Common External Parasites in Pets


Fleas are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of pets and can cause itching, hair loss, and skin infections. They can also transmit tapeworms and other diseases.


Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids that can cause skin irritation and transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever in pets.


Mites are tiny arachnids that can infest pets and cause itching, hair loss, and skin infections. Examples include ear mites and scabies mites.


Lice are tiny insects that can infect pets and cause itching, hair loss, and anemia. They are more commonly seen in animals with poor health or living conditions.

Parasite Infection Symptoms

If your pet is infected with parasites, you may notice symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, itching, and scooting. Monitoring your pet’s behavior and physical condition is essential, as early detection can make treatment more effective.

Vet Check Up

If you suspect your pet may have a parasite infection, it’s essential to schedule a vet check-up promptly. During the check-up, your veterinarian will examine your pet, perform diagnostic tests, and recommend the best course of action for treating the infection.

Diagnosing Pet Parasites

Fecal Examination

One of the primary methods of diagnosing internal parasites is through a fecal examination. This test involves examining a sample of your pet’s feces under a microscope to identify parasites and their eggs.

Gross Parasite Diagnostics

Gross parasite diagnostics involve visually examining your pet and its environment (like bedding and grooming tools) for signs of external parasites, such as fleas and ticks.

Heartworm Tests

Heartworm tests help determine if your pet is infected with heartworms. These tests typically involve taking a blood sample and sending it to a lab for analysis.

Tests for Vector-Borne Diseases

Vector-borne diseases are illnesses transmitted to pets by ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. Tests for these diseases may include blood tests and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to identify the presence of pathogens.

In-Clinic Diagnostics vs. Outside Laboratory Testing

Sometimes, your vet may choose to perform diagnostic tests in their clinic, while other tests may need to be sent to an outside laboratory for analysis. The decision depends on factors such as equipment, staff expertise, test frequency, and turnaround time.


It’s also important to consider the possibility of endoparasites, organisms, or objects that may appear like parasites but are not infectious. Keep this possibility in mind if your pet is experiencing symptoms but diagnostic tests return negative for parasites.

Preventing and Treating Pet Parasites

Antiparasitic Drugs

One of the critical tools in managing pet parasites is the use of antiparasitic drugs. These medications can be preventive (to keep infections from occurring) or therapeutic (to treat existing infections). Following your veterinarian’s advice on proper dosing and administration of these drugs is crucial.

Vet Surgery

In cases where a parasite infection becomes severe or requires more advanced treatment, you may need to consult with a veterinary specialist, such as those at Critter Creek vet surgery. These professionals have the expertise and experience needed to handle more complex cases and provide the best care for your pet.

Regular Veterinary Check-Ups and Pet Vaccinations

One of the best ways to prevent and catch parasite issues early on is through regular veterinary check-ups and pet vaccinations. These visits allow your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s overall health and recommend preventive measures to keep them parasite-free.

Environmental Control and Cleanliness

Managing your pet’s environment is also crucial in preventing parasite infestations. This includes maintaining a clean living area, regularly washing bedding, grooming items, and proper disposal of pet waste. You also should use preventive measures like flea and tick treatments, as your veterinarian recommends.

Zoonotic Parasites and Public Health Concerns

Some pet parasites can also infect humans, posing a significant public health risk. To minimize the threat to human health, practice good hygiene and follow your veterinarian’s parasite prevention and treatment guidelines.

Parasite Management and Control in Multi-Pet Households

If multiple pets live under one roof, managing parasites can become more challenging. However, following similar preventive measures for each animal and consulting with your veterinarian can significantly reduce the risk of parasite transmission within your household.

Travel and Pet Parasites

Be aware of potential parasite risks in new environments when traveling with your pet. Research the area you plan to visit and take necessary precautions, such as using preventative treatments and avoiding high-risk areas and activities.

The Bottom Line

Addressing pet parasites is an essential aspect of being a responsible pet owner. By staying informed, vigilant, and proactive, you can significantly reduce the risk of infections and keep your furry friend healthy and happy. And as always, consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions about your pet’s health.