Could your pet have parasites? Indoor pets get worms, too!

So often, at the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics, we hear owners say that their pets could never have parasites because they don’t go outside. Not true. Many pets – mammals, birds, and reptiles – are never outside their families’ homes, yet they carry parasites in their intestinal tracts and can shed these microscopic parasites in their stool. Once the stool dries up in their cages, small bits of dry stool can blow around the environment to be inhaled by other pets or people or get on the hands of caretakers who clean the cage. Many of these parasites are harmful to people, as well as pets. Furthermore, many of these microscopic parasites resist common disinfectants used to clean cages, so they persist in the animals’ environments and continuously re-infect these pets as they eat in their cages; the infected pets continue to shed these infectious parasites in their stool, and the vicious cycle of re-infection is established. Thus, even if your pet shows none of the common signs of gastrointestinal parasite infection, such as diarrhea, weight loss, or an unkempt appearance, he or she may be infected anyway and could spread these parasites to you and your family. This is particularly an issue if young children who forget to wash their hands are handling these animals. Thus, it is essential that all pets are checked for parasites once you first bring them into your home and at least annually after that. Unfortunately, if an animal has intestinal parasites, they are not always continuously shed into its stool. So, a check of a single stool sample may not actually be a true representation of what’s going on in that pet’s intestines. This is particularly true for reptiles that are so often infected with gastrointestinal parasites that we routinely deworm them with general deworming medications even before we get back the results of their fecal analyses. So, even if your mammal, bird, or reptile is seemingly healthy, it is critical that he or she is checked annually for gastrointestinal parasites, both for their health and your health. Even if they are not obviously affected now with these organisms, if these parasites are left untreated, your pet may eventually lose weight and become ill, and worse yet, so could your family. Deworming is safe, easy, and inexpensive. Why wait for a serious problem to happen if you can prevent it now?