Diagnosing Worms in Dogs Not Always Simple

Intestinal parasites or worms in dogs are a common problem faced by almost every pet owner. Despite this, confusion over how to deal with “worms” seems to be the norm. Let me see if I can clarify why veterinarians and pet owners don’t always see eye to eye on how best to “worm” (actually deworm) a dog or cat. The following is how I usually handle these cases and why I take the approach I do.

First, I check the pet’s medical record to make sure that I’ve performed a physical exam within a reasonable amount of time. For a healthy adult animal, that will usually be about one year. For the very young, old, or those individuals with chronic health problems, it might be between one and six months. If I haven’t seen your pet recently or am concerned that intestinal parasitism might make your pet especially sick, I’m not comfortable proceeding without examining them first.

Next, I’ll ask for a description of your pet’s symptoms and the worms that you’ve seen. If the dog or cat is not eating and drinking well, is lethargic or depressed, or has vomiting or diarrhea, I’ll want to see them to assess whether additional therapy is necessary before prescribing a dewormer. When the pet seems to be feeling fine, a good description of the worm(s) may help you avoid a trip to the clinic. This is especially true in the case of tapeworms. Tapeworms have a distinctive appearance — they are “ribbon-like,” being flattened from top to bottom, and typically shed segments of their bodies in a pet’s feces. These segments look like squished pieces of rice. If it sounds like we’re dealing with tapeworms and all the other conditions we’ve talked about have been met, I’ll recommend a dewormer that will be effective against tapeworms — usually one containing the active ingredient praziquantel.

If tapeworms seem unlikely, I will ask for you to bring a fresh fecal sample to the clinic for examination. Fecal examinations are noninvasive, cheap, simple to perform, and often allow us to diagnose exactly what type of intestinal parasite were dealing with, including those that cannot be identified with the naked eye. A fecal flotation will detect many types of worm eggs (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, less frequently tapeworms) and protozoan cysts (Giardia, Toxoplasma, Tritrichomonas). I may also add a fecal smear if I’m especially concerned about the presence of protozoa.

The reason for all this back and forth is simple. No single medication will eradicate every type of intestinal parasite a dog or cat might be harboring. A specific diagnosis allows the veterinarian to prescribe the most effective and least expensive medication and make recommendations that can prevent reinfection or spread of the parasite to other pets or even to people. Sure, products are available that kill multiple types of worms. I happily use them when fecal testing is negative but I still suspect that worms are present (no test is 100% accurate, after all). However, this shotgun approach is second best to diagnosing and treating the particular type of parasite that is making its home in your dog or cat.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372

Are We “Treating” Our Pets to Death-Pet Treats?

Pet treats are popular. I found nearly 1,000 food treats and chews for dogs, and more than 100 for cats for sale during a recent search of a few popular pet product websites. Pet food manufacturers like treats because they are profitable, and owners like them because they attract the attention of their pets. Unfortunately, the association between treat feeding andobesity and its attendant problems in pets raises the possibility that we may be killing our loved ones with kindness.

A Billion in Bon Bons

Pet treats is a big business. According to Newhope360.com, a consumer and trade website for the natural products industry, “U.S. retail sales of pet supplements and nutraceutical treats totaled $1.3 billion in 2012,” and that amount reflects only a slice of the pet treat market as a whole. Treat and treat-type products of all kinds make for serious profits; small wonder there are so many in the marketplace. The products are formulated for maximum palatability, or tastiness, including through the addition of large amounts of sugar, according to Dr. Ernie Ward, who runs theAssociation for Pet Obesity Prevention website.

Marketers have cleverly used the term “treat” rather than “snack,” presumably to enhance the emotional appeal of their products to buyers. To me, a treat is something provided occasionally to create happiness, like an ice cream on a hot summer day or a holiday present. As we know, giving a treat to ourselves or to another makes both the recipient and us happy. Food treats, however, too often are given frequently and between meals. They become more a form of regular interaction between the owner and the pet than a special treat. What do treats look like from the pet’s point of view? Probably like rewards for specific behavior, which may be what we call begging. If we praise a pet and give it a food reward, it is more likely to repeat the begging behavior to get another reward.

What to Know About Allergies in Dogs


Q: We adopted a beautiful 10-month-old Golden Retriever a year ago from the Montreal SPCA. We are very happy with our adoptee! He is part of the family!

The only concerns we have are some skin problems. He has hot spots, ear mites, otitis, etc. I’ve always had Labs and I have been lucky — no problems.

But what can we do to reduce the incidence of skin issues? It is almost every month we have to see the vet.

A: It’s always hard to give a diagnosis (even preliminary) without seeing the patient. But I would certainly have skin allergies fairly high on my list of things that could be causing the repeat problems you are seeing with your dog.

Allergies in dogs can generally be broken down into two main categories:

  1. Allergies to things they are inhaling, such as pollen or ragweed. This is known as “atopy.”
  2. Allergies to things that they are eating, more intuitively called “food allergies”.

Unlike similar allergies in people, dogs manifest these allergies in the form of skin problems. Generally they are pretty itchy, which may include, outright scratching as well as licking or chewing their paws and rubbing their face and ears on the couch or carpet.

The skin inflammation leads to secondary problems, such as superficial bacterial infections, hot spots, repeat ear infections, and sometimes anal-gland infections. While these secondary problems or symptoms are often what gets noticed and can usually be cleared up with appropriate treatment, they tend to recur if the underlying allergic issue(s) are not addressed.

I would encourage you to speak with your regular vet and consider pursuing a referral to a veterinary dermatologist, but here is a very brief Dog Allergies 101:

Dogs can be atopic, food allergic, or (for an unlucky few) both.


  • Because dogs with atopy are frequently allergic to pollens and grasses, they often have a seasonality to their symptoms but can show signs all year long if they are allergic to something that is always in the environment (such as dust mites).
  • Treatment of atopy centers around reducing exposure to the allergens, symptomatic treatment, and/or immunotherapy “allergy shots” like those people often require.
  • Some dogs have relatively mild, seasonal symptoms that can be managed with bathing and medications (such as omega-3 fatty acids and antihistamines, with the occasional use of steroids), while other dogs have more severe symptoms or suffer year-round and really benefit from the allergy shots.
  • The only way to truly diagnose atopy and determine what a dog is allergic to is to perform skin testing (again, like in people), and these results can be used to determine what to put in the allergy shots.


  • For food allergies, diagnosis and treatment go hand in hand, and most vets will try to definitely rule out a food allergy before pursuing things like skin testing.
  • Because dogs can be allergic to even tiny amounts of the offending foodstuff, your vet will want to get a very detailed dietary history for you dog – including the ingredient lists for all the foods and treats you regularly give him.
  • Food allergies are diagnosed through something called an “elimination trial” or a “novel protein diet trial”  – your vet will suggest a diet made of ingredients that your dog has not been regularly exposed to. You will feed that diet (and here’s the hard part  – only that diet!) for a period of 4-12 weeks. Dogs with a food allergy to something that they were previously eating will improve with the diet change, and if you go back to feeding the old diet, their clinical signs will recur.
  • Once you get the diagnosis, treatment is straightforward. Don’t let the dog eat what he is allergic too. Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever lived with a dog knows, that is easier said than done!

Chronic skin issues can be tricky to diagnose, a real source of frustration for you and very uncomfortable for your dog. If you think your dog has skin allergies, a veterinarian with special training will be most equipped to handle a case like this.   Hope that is helpful,
Dr. Stephanie Janeczko D.V.M.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372



Stop HEARTWORM in it’s Tracks

Keep in mind that  treats and holiday food can be unsettling or potentially dangerous to your dog… when in doubt , don’t give the goodies to your buddy… he will be very happy with a holistic dog biscuit.. trust me 🙂

Here’s a piece we wrote on Easter and Holiday Treats .. check it out

We are approaching the time of year when HEARTWORM will be raising the ugly specter of attacking our dog’s systems so I am utilizing part of a previous  issue today… the information is important and we should all be vigilant.

Let’s get started

If you take Fido to the vet for a checkup you might soon get inundated with a plethora of potential maladies that should be treated by prescriptive meds or vaccination(s).

One of those potential and common  problems that may be brought to your attention is Heartworm.

Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm  that is spread from the bites of mosquitoes, targeting dogs and other animals .

Heartworm can be found almost anyplace we find mosquitoes,including all regions of the U.S. except Alaska and warmer sections of Canada.




The highest infection rates are found within 150 mi of the coast from Texas to New Jersey, and along the Mississippi River region.  Heartworm has also been found in South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and Japan.

Clinical signs of Heartworm infection

Dogs typically show no signs of heartworm infection during the 6-month period prior to the heartworms’ reaching maturity.

And until the worm finds its way to Fido’s  heart, he may show no signs of illness.

This is true even after the worms become adults, especially if they have a light infection and live a fairly sedentary lifestyle.

However, active dogs and those with heavier infections may show the classic signs of heartworm disease such as a cough, especially when exercising.

In the most advanced cases where many adult worms have built up in the heart signs include :

severe weight loss,
coughing up blood
congestive heart failure.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372