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jkochBy John Koch, DVM
Question: Annually I take my dog to the veterinarian for a physical examination, vaccinations and worm tests. In addition, heartworm medication is given faithfully. Fritz is now in early middle age, and, until this last exam, his checkups have always been perfect. This year I was surprised to hear the vet say roundworm eggs had been found in his stool exam. I was told that he probably picked them up from the soil. Other than an occasional walk on a leash, Fritz never leaves his fenced-in back yard. How could he have been exposed to roundworms?
Answer: Although it is true roundworms are not as prevalent in older dogs, they still may be seen. You must be aware that just one female roundworm can lay up to 200,000 eggs each day. These eggs are passed in the feces on to the soil, and may live there for many years. The dog, while walking on a leash, comes into contact with contaminated soil and the eggs stick to his feet or fur. Dogs have never been known to have a passionate zeal for sanitary habits. All too commonly they will lick their feet along with various other parts of their anatomy. Ingestion of parasite eggs and other infectious agents is easily accomplished.
These parasites live freely in your pet's intestinal tract and survive by eating the dog food that is passing through. Roundworms rob your pet of its nutritional intake and weaken it. They may be present in large enough numbers to cause intestinal blockage. Their larvae may migrate through the animal's internal organs leaving damaged tissue and thereby produce a multitude of different symptoms.
Almost any of the worm medications will get rid of roundworms. Several of the heartworm preventives contain additives that will control these parasites. Roundworms do have certain human health implications, so annual or semi-annual testing with treatment as necessary is prudent.
Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau area veterinarian.