Who loves parasites?
Let’s talk about a few of the parasites that can be living not only on the outside of your pet but also on the inside. First, let’s start with the ones that live on the outside of your pet. Most people know about ticks and fleas as far as what they look like and where they live on a pet’s body. Not everyone knows that both ticks and fleas carry their own little diseases that can be spread to other pets; some diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can infect humans.
Ticks have several blood borne diseases such as Lyme, Canine Ehrlichiosis, Canine Anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever just to name a few. Ticks can be out at 32°F, so it is best to protect your dog or cat from this icky bloodsucker even in cooler weather. If you would like to learn about these and other tick borne diseases check out this link, http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/6-tick-borne-diseases-you-should-know-about .
Fleas have their own little part in the life cycle of tapeworms. They also like to spread cat scratch disease (cue Ted Nugent “Cat Scratch Fever”). Both tapeworms and cat scratch disease can infect humans. Fleas are a year round problem; dogs can pick them up in the winter time if they happen to come across an infested animal while they are out and about. This link talks about cat scratch disease, https://www.vin.com/veterinarypartner/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952003.
Now remember everyone, there are plenty of good flea and tick preventatives on the market to keep your pet free of these nasty little creatures. Give us a call and we will help you pick the right one for your furry friend. Also, never ever use a dog flea/tick preventative on a cat; it is extremely toxic!
There are several varieties of mites that can infect dogs and cats, like mange and ear mites. In most cases, the animal is very itchy. They may also have hair loss or skin lesions from all the scratching. If your pet is itchy, it may or may not be a parasite. It is best to have them see the veterinarian as soon as possible to get the best treatment to make them comfortable again.
Have you ever watched the show “Monsters Inside Me”? It is seriously one of my favorites; I love trying to guess what parasite is in the human before they tell you. What I do not love is that the human was infested at all, and it’s even scarier when they say that they got it from their own pet! Yes, several intestinal parasites such as tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms are all zoonotic to people. The vast majority are spread by fecal oral transmission (yeah, I know it is gross). Let us think about this for a second, who in your family would be the most at risk for picking up such a parasite? Yeah, you got it, children. Sometimes kids put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t, for instance, a dirty yard toy, or they do not thoroughly wash their hands. Some of these parasites do not just stay in the intestines of humans; some are visceral migrans, meaning they can infect other organs. If you think you can stomach it, put “visceral larval migrans” into google images, eek! Some parasite eggs can live in our soil for years, so always pick up stools and wash your hands. Here is a link that talks a bit more about some of the more common intestinal parasites, http://www.vetstreet.com/intestinal-parasites-the-squirm-worthy-side-of-living-with-dogs.
I want to touch a little on Heartworm. Heartworm has been diagnosed in all of the lower 48 states, and Hawaii. This link has a map of heartworm incidence going back to 2001, https://www.heartwormsociety.org/veterinary-resources/incidence-maps. As you can see, heartworm has been on the rise, as a whole, throughout the United States. Heartworm is spread by the nasty little mosquitoes and develops in the heart and lungs of dogs and cats. In dogs, the worm flourishes into hundreds taking up all of the chamber space within the heart. Heartworm treatment is costly and can be risky. This link is for further information on heartworm, http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/heartworm-treatment-for-dogs-what-you-need-to-know .
There are several heartworm preventatives on the market; many of them are also a nice way to deworm your dog or cat every month for intestinal parasites. It is important to test your dog or cat prior to using a heartworm preventative, so make sure to speak with your veterinarian about that as well as what preventatives they recommend.
Let’s all get on our preventatives and have some fun this summer in the sun! As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Randi Langerud, LVT