As many of you know, Shirley has been a veterinary technician for years- 25 years to be exact! While that doesn’t make her a veterinarian (and she doesn’t pretend to be one!) it does mean she knows her way around a clinic or stable. Shirley has worked with small animal veterinarians and equine veterinarians (in fact, that’s how she met Frankie) and one of the most overlooked medical concerns she sees in horses, cats, dogs and people are internal parasites. Shirley worked with her favorite small animal veterinarian, Dr. Thompson, from Parkside Animal Hospital to put together this quick guide to internal parasites.
Why Should We Worry About Internal Parasites?
Most stables, barns or ranches have more than one animal. I think that’s fair to say. At Neversweat we have up to 15 horses at any one time, 4 resident dogs with frequent visitors, 7 barn cats, 2 donkeys, 2 goats and 10 chickens! And that’s just what I can remember! Needless to say, caring for all those critters is a full time job. The big risk with so many living creatures is that if a zoonotic disease affects one animal, it can quickly spread to other animals. Or even worse, people! That’s why at Neversweat, we make deworming a regular part of what we do. We don’t want parasites likes giardia (very common in Colorado), coccidia, tapeworms or whipworms affecting our animals and we certainly don’t want them ourselves!
What people forget is just how many of these parasites can be transmittable between species. Let’s go over the top three that I think everyone should know about.
And remember, you don’t have to a be a veterinarian to administer dewormers. You do have to be a veterinarian to diagnose a disease. The difference is when you provide a dewormer you providing preventative maintenance care while if you diagnose a treat a disease, you have a crossed a line. The majority of deworming products can be purchased online or at any feed store. Our favorite is the Golden Mill Country Store located in Golden. We’ve worked with them for years and they’re great about answering questions about which deworming products you need. I also want to give a big thank you to Dr. Thompson of Parkside Animal Hospital. She reviewed the work written here to make sure I didn’t cross any lines or leave anything out.
Also, this article is not intended to act as medical advice. For that, we highly recommend visiting Dr. Thompson at her Aurora clinic (it’s worth the drive) for any small animal needs. Check out Dr. Thompson and Parkside’s website here.
Giardia is a well known Colorado disease and is a big enough deal that the Colorado state government has put out a variety of warnings and literature in regards to avoiding and preventing the disease. While the prevalence in Colorado may be a bit overblown, it is certainly not uncommon to see in animals and people. The tricky part is that there are several variations of the giardia organism. Some of these affect dogs, cats or horses more than others. And some effect primarily humans. Transmission is via fecal consumption. Yuck! But before you start to say that it can’t happen to you, realize how prevalent fecal material actually is on a ranch. Regardless of how clean you are (and we’re pretty darn clean at Neversweat) you will end up with fecal matter on your shoes, gloves, and clothes. If this comes inside with you it then ends up in your food and water.
But even more likely is that your friendly dog had a nice romp in the stables and is now ready to be pet. That sounds like fecal matter on your hands!
We regularly deworm are pets and livestock with panacur. This will knock out the giardia in one dose. It comes in an easy to administer granule formula as well as a liquid. We like the granules as they’re easier to store and way easier to administer.
Coccidia is another common Colorado internal parasite. The tricky thing with coccidia is that nothing will just knock out the organism. With this puppy, you have to focus on stopping the reproduction of the organism. Most often, we use ponazuril to a preventative drug. It is often sold over the counter (including at Golden Mill’s) as marquis paste. This stuff can be hard to handle and for small animals, you will need to dilute it quite a bit.
Coccidia is a little more severe than giardia in that diarrhea can get so bad that it can kill young animals through dehydration. We really have to make sure our barn cats are up to date on dewormers since mousers can coccidia but ingesting a mouse.
Tapeworms are a very common type of internal parasite. Unlike the previous two, tapeworms are visible to the naked eye. They also have a different route of transmission. Tapeworm infections are most often caused by ingesting fleas that carry the larva of a tapeworm. When cats or dogs groom themselves or itch at fleas, they also often ingest the little buggers and contract tapeworms. While horses are much less likely to do this, they can still ingest the small tapeworm eggs if their food or water is exposed to the stool of a tapeworm infected animal. Which on the farm or ranch can be quite easy.
The good thing is, tapeworms can be treated with the same drug used for coccidia. This is not an uncommon occurrence when it comes to dewormers. One or two dewormers can often cover your pets from a long list of internal parasites.
At the end of the day, there’s really no reason not to spend the extra money and invest in some proper dewormers. Untreated internal parasites can have huge effects on your pets, livestock and your family!