Q: I have a 12-week-old female mixed breed that has been having a lot of diarrhea. Is it possible for her to have worms even though I don't see any worms in her stools? She goes outside most of the time and, although her stool is runny, she doesn't seem to be sick.
She eats very well and is active most of the time, although she doesn't seem to be gaining a lot of weight for what she eats. I once gave her some worm capsules that I bought at the store but her stools haven't changed very much.
I have also given her some Pepto Bismol, which does seem to help at times. Should I give her more of the worming capsules? Is there anything that I can add to her food that will help her get better?
Kathy Whitley, Santa Ana
A: chronic diarrhea or very soft stools in a puppy could definitely signal a parasitic infection that should be treated as soon as possible. Other possible problems could be improper diet, such as cow's milk, or frequent changing of foods to which a pup's digestive system must adapt.
Getting into the trash, eating fatty table scraps, chewing and eating plants, or swallowing various foreign materials may all cause severe digestive upsets that result in diarrhea. There are also very serious viral and bacterial infections that can occur and even become life-threatening.
Except for tapeworms, looking at a puppy's stools for worms is not an accurate way to diagnose a parasitic infection. You should have your puppy examined by your veterinarian and be sure to bring a fresh stool sample so that it may be examined in the lab for the eggs of any possible worms. Most worms or intestinal parasites shed their microscopic-size eggs in the stools.
There are also single-celled organisms that are not worms that can cause diarrhea by destroying the lining of the intestines and preventing the absorption of nutrients. A microscopic examination of the feces will show the cysts of these organisms. Generally, the tapeworm is the only one of the common worms that infect cats and dogs that is diagnosed by seeing the individual segments being passed with the stools or attached to the hair coat.
Once your veterinarian has made a diagnosis, the proper medication can be administered. Not all over-the-counter medications are effective and could even be harmful.
Q: Whenever I take my Airedale for a walk or a run, he always stops to urinate on the bushes or grass. He will do this a dozen times or so, making it difficult to keep running with him on a leash. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? Is there a possibly of a bladder infection? Otherwise, he is a lot of fun to take places and always seems to attract attention wherever he goes. I hate to leave him at home since he seems to enjoy the exercise with me.
P. Wiswell, Irvine
A: All the frequent stops and urinating are your pet's means of letting other dogs know that he has been there or is an effort to cover up some other dog's scent that has been left behind. It is natural behavior for male dogs and can be very difficult to break. It would be best to keep him on a short (6-foot) leash and talk to him when he starts to slow down or drift toward an object. A gentle tug of the leash and a sharp "No" will often keep him on the path and moving. Being alert and patient will help train him to sticking with you.
Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.