Curbside Check-Ins and Puppy Parasites
Why can’t I come inside the practice with my dog?
Many veterinary practices are still doing curbside check-in for their patients as the COVID-19 social distancing continues. It can be hard for owners to understand why they cannot accompany their dog inside for the visit. These new procedures are challenging for veterinarians, too. We would much rather have you in the examination room and speak to you directly about your dog’s health.
This business of scratchy cell-phone reception and talking through masks makes communication difficult. It is especially frustrating for both the veterinarian and owner when the explanation of serious illness and the recommendations for treatment are continually interrupted by dropped cell service and having to repeat oneself.
However, right now veterinarians are required to follow the guidelines issued by each state. In many cases these state that “Curbside intake and pickup of animals should be used, wherever practical, to minimize the number of clients in waiting areas and exam rooms.” Exceptions can be made in situations like euthanasia.
Complying with these safety guidelines creates extra work for the veterinary practices, but it is necessary in order to protect the health and safety of the veterinary staff as well as the clients. There are detailed guidelines for all business. Admitting clients into the facility would mean more potential exposure for the staff and require time-consuming screening of owners.
Dog owners all across the country have noticed it is more difficult to get an appointment with their veterinarian these days. This has been an unexpected development in this time of quarantine. Veterinary practices, both general medicine and emergency, have seen a drastic increase in the demand for services. Staff shortages mean more work for other employees, and, frankly, it has been hard to keep up. It would be disastrous for clients, practice owners and their employees to have to close down if one of the team is exposed to or tests positive for COVID-19.
In states with restrictions like curbside check-in, the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 has been dramatically reduced. States with fewer restrictions have seen a rise in infections. The government has lifted restrictions where it is essential to get other parts of the economy started, but safety measures like curbside check-in are expected to be in effect for a while yet.
If I dewormed my puppies, why do the new owners say they have worms?
Many breeders deworm their puppies several times before sending them to their new homes. It is part of a good health-care regimen, along with a veterinary examination and any vaccines appropriate for the age of the puppy.
I recommend that breeders also check a stool sample for parasites prior to releasing the puppies. The bond of trust between the new owner and breeder can be strained when the puppy tests positive for parasites by the new owner’s veterinarian.
Ingesting infected fleas can lead to tapeworm infestation.
Pyrantel pamoate liquid (Nemex-2) is most often used as a dewormer at the ages of two, four and six weeks. It is a sweet-tasting liquid that is easy to administer and is well tolerated by the puppies. Pyrantal pamoate will treat infections of large roundworms (Toxocara canis) and hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum and Uncinaria stenocephala).
Both adult dogs and puppies can become infected with roundworms. When an infected adult dog becomes pregnant, the worms buried in her body tissue are reactivated. Puppies can be infected with roundworms through their mother’s placenta before they are born or through the mammary glands while they are nursing. Because of this ability to encyst, or “hide,” in body tissue, roundworm eggs may not be detected on a fecal, yet the puppy will vomit or pass adult “spaghetti worms.”
Bitches should be wormed before they are bred, and puppies should be wormed at two, four, six and even eight weeks, and monthly thereafter if needed.
However, worming with pyrantel pamoate alone may not be sufficient. There are other parasites that may be detected in a puppy’s feces. These include coccidia, giardia and tapeworms.
Coccidia is a single-celled organism that is more like an amoeba than a worm. Puppies become infected with coccidia from swallowing coccidial cysts that are found in dog feces and soil or bedding contaminated with feces. Litters of puppies kept in pens poop and tromp around in it, transmitting the coccidia to each other.
The most common clinical sign of coccidia is an intestinal infection resulting in watery diarrhea, dehydration and vomiting, but many dogs infected with coccidia do not show any symptoms. The treatment for coccidia is a sulfa-type antibiotic called sulfadimethoxine (Albon), which is usually given for five to 25 days.
Puppies can get reinfected easily, so disinfection of the environment is important. The coccicial cysts are resistant to environmental conditions and many disinfectants. Use a solution of diluted chlorine bleach to clean surfaces. Steam cleaning may also be used to destroy the cysts. Be sure to remove any feces as quickly as possible to prevent reinfection.
Giardia is a tiny parasite that can only be seen with a microscope. Outdoor enthusiasts who consume contaminated water may develop “beaver fever,” which is another name for giardia infection in people. A dog becomes infected when it swallows the cyst form of the parasite, similar to coccidia.
The most common symptoms of a giardia infection are weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea. Again, like coccidia, the majority of dogs infected with giardia do not show any signs of illness. The cystic form is passed in the feces and can survive several months in the environment, particularly in water and damp conditions. Giardia is common in densely populated conditions, such as kennels, pet stores or animal shelters.
The drugs used to treat giardia are fenbendazole (Panacur) and metronidazole (Flagyl). These drugs are given for three to 10 days and may be given in combination if necessary. All infected dogs should be retested two to four weeks after the completion of treatment.
Because giardia cysts are infective immediately when passed into the environment, feces should be removed quickly and disposed of. Infected dogs should be bathed regularly to remove cysts from the fur. Chlorine bleach, Lysol and quaternary ammonium compounds (Parvosol) should be used to disinfect the premises. Giardia cysts are susceptible to drying, so try to keep the environment where the puppies live as dry as possible.
Tapeworms are another parasite that do not always show up in a stool sample. They are flat, segmented intestinal worms that belong to the cestode family. The worms attach to the inside of the intestine and pass egg-filled pouches called proglottids. These segments are about a half-inch in length and an eighth of an inch wide. They look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds. Owners are understandably alarmed to see something crawling on the fur around the puppy’s anus.
Since the proglottids are passed sporadically, they may not be present in every stool sample. Dogs and puppies become infected with tapeworms when they eat an infected flea while grooming themselves or in response to a flea bite. As the flea is digested in the dog’s intestine, the tapeworm egg hatches and then anchors itself to the lining of the intestine, completing the lifecycle.
In general, tapeworms do not cause serious problems for dogs. Occasionally, dogs will scoot their butts on the ground in order to calm the irritation associated with the proglottids. Heavy infestations in puppies can be more serious and lead to poor condition, weight loss and anemia.
Treatment for tapeworms is simple and effective. Many of today’s medications such as Drontal and Sentinel contain the drug praziquantel that will eliminate the tapeworms. It causes the parasite to be digested in the intestines so dead tapeworms are not passed in the stool. Flea control is necessary for the prevention of tapeworm infections.