12December

Internal Parasites

Case of the Month, Dec 2004

Internal Parasites

10-week-old Female Boston Terrier Puppy. The owner acquired the puppy from a breeder 5 days prior to presentation at our clinic. The owner reported that the dog had chronic loose stools and did not seem very energetic. There was no history of vomting, sneezing or coughing and the puppy's appetite was normal according to the owner.

SIGNALMENT:

10-week-old Female Boston Terrier Puppy

HISTORY:

The owner acquired the puppy from a breeder 5 days prior to presentation at our clinic. The owner reported that the dog had chronic loose stools and did not seem very energetic. There was no history of vomting, sneezing or coughing and the puppy's appetite was normal according to the owner.

PHYSICAL EXAMINATION FINDINGS:

  • Weight = 2.8 lbs
  • Temperature = 101.7 ºF
  • Heart Rate = 120 BPM
  • Respiratory Rate = Panting

Significant findings on examination included poor coat condition with dry flaky skin. The puppy was small for her age and she was about 30% under her appropriate body weight. Her heart and lungs were normal and abdominal palpation was non-remarkable.

PROBLEM LIST:

  • Loose stools
  • Underweight
  • Decreased activity levels

DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS:

  • Nutritional diarrhea
  • Parasitic Disease
  • Viral Diarrhea

DIAGNOSTIC PLAN:

Because the puppy was well hydrated, alert, eating and not running a fever- normal body temperature for dogs is between 99 and 102 degrees- aggressive diagnostics were not initially indicated. A fecal flotation and in-house test for giardia infection were ordered.

DIAGNOSIS: GIARDIASIS

TREATMENT PLAN:

The puppy was place on a five-day course of oral fenbendazole powder and a stool sample was rechecked one week later. The owner reported persistent loose stools. The puppy again tested positive for giardia on direct fecal examination, so the fenbendazole was repeated and metronidazole (flagyl) was also prescribed. The dog was re-tested 7 days later at which time the owner reported normal stools. The dog had gained 0.5 lbs and had improved coat condition. The fecal examination was negative.

DISCUSSION:

There are numerous causes of diarrhea in puppies. The two most common are nutritional issues such as d ietary changes and intestinal parasites. Giardia lamdia is a microscopic parasite that colonizes the intestine of many species. Animals are infected through ingestion of fecal matter or contaminated water. Giardia is quite common in dogs originating from kennel environments such as breeders, shelters, kennels and humane societies. It can produce a range of symptoms from mild intermittent soft stools to severe diarrhea with dehydration, abdominal pain and shock in severely effected animals. Giardia can be difficult to detect by conventional fecal analysis that involves mixing fecal matter with a flotation solution and examining it for the presence of eggs or cysts. A rapid in-house "snap" test was used to detect giardia in this puppy. The snap tests are much more sensitive than the traditional fecal flotation for detecting giardia.

The puppy's persistent infection was likely due to re-infection from a contaminated environment rather than an actual treatment failure. It is always important to perform good environmental hygiene and treat other exposed pets when dealing with intestinal parasites.

There are several important issues illustrated by this case. We recommend regular fecal examinations to make sure your pet is parasite free. Most of the intestinal parasites that pets get cannot be seen by the owner and are detected only through microscopic examination of the feces. Intestinal parasitism is most often devoid of obvious clinical symptoms. In addition, many of the parasites that dogs and cats can get represent a health risk to humans as well. Giardia is a common intestinal parasite of man as well as dogs, cats and wildlife. In this particular instance the owner had two small children and had to be advised of the risk to his children. Had a thorough fecal analysis not been carried out, this puppy could easily have infected the children with giardia making them quite ill. Many pets with intestinal parasites appear clinically normal, yet have significant parasite burdens and shed eggs that can infect other animals as well as potentially causing problems for humans.

For more information on parasites in pets, go to our client information section and view the parasite handout!

Posted in Case Studies

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