Tapeworm and Giardia: 6 Common Fecal Parasites in Dogs and Cats

Posted by Stacey Venzel

Do you know if your pet has an intestinal parasite?

Fecal parasites are common in outdoor dogs and cats. The good news is, a simple fecal test can help the veterinarian make a quick and proper diagnosis for treatment. Diarrhea and vomiting are the most common signs of a fecal parasite, though live worms can sometimes be spotted either in feces or vomit. Parasites are especially common in puppies and kittens.

Clearing parasites out of the intestinal tract is relatively easy and effective. Typically a tablet or liquid dewormer is given. If a heavy bacteria load is present, antibiotics might also be prescribed.

1. Coccidia

Coccidia are often described as resembling little safety pins under the microscope. They are typically green in appearance.

2. Tapeworm

If you spot little grains of rice in your pet's feces, you're likely looking at live tapeworms. Dogs and cats cannot contract tapeworm by consuming the parasite eggs, but some other animals can.

Fleas can also transmit tapeworm.


3. Roundworm

This parasitic worm is white or light brown in color and significantly longer than a tapeworm. But unlike tapeworms, ingesting eggs can cause infestation in a dog or cat.

Vomited worms are most likely roundworms.

4. Hookworm

Hookworm is only visible under the microscope as it is rarely seen in feces or vomit.

5. Whipworm

Similar to hookworm, whipworm cannot be seen with the naked eye.

6. Giardia

Giardia cysts can be difficult to see on a regular fecal slide, so the veterinarian may request a giardia-specific test if the parasite is suspected. Giardia is most commonly caused by infected water.


Intestinal parasites are picked up from the environment. In dogs, this is usually through ingestion of contaminated feces, dirt, or water where the cysts thrive. In cats, it is typically through ingestion of an intermediate host, such as a flea or rat.

Both eggs and whole organisms can be found in a fecal sample. A trained laboratory technician can distinguish the cysts from one another.

While these parasites are common in dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, rodents, and farm animals, even humans can get these unique parasites as the organisms are host-specific.

If you notice your dog showing signs of a possible intestinal parasite, it is best to seek immediate treatment to nip the illness in the bud.

Do you know of any other intestinal parasites in household pets? Share with us in the comments below.

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Tapeworm and Giardia: 6 Common Fecal Parasites in Dogs and Cats