Pets can contract and carry parasites during any time of the year, and those parasites can infect your entire family.
There are two types of parasites: Internal parasites, such as worms, live inside your pet year round; External parasites, such as fleas and ticks, can survive the winter months by living inside your home.
You and your veterinarian can prevent the spread of parasites with some simple remedies:
1 Practice good personal hygiene
2 Dispose of pet feces on a regular basis
3 Minimize exposure to high pet traffic areas
4 Avoid contact between pets and wildlife, and
5 Visit your veterinarian on a regular basis, and use preventative treatments available at the pet clinic.
Pets are a prime target for parasites because they are the perfect living environment. Your pets blood, sweat, and tears are lunch for parasites. Warm furry bodies can serve as a protective home for parasites and can act as a transfer point to another host.
Internal Pet Parasites Tapeworms, Hookworms, Whipworms, and Roundworms
Almost all kittens and puppies have some type of internal parasite that can affect their ability to absorb nutrients. Unless they are treated promptly, the parasites may damage the lining of the intestinal tract. Tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms are the most common internal parasites.
Tapeworms can get transferred onto your pet through fleas or by eating infected rodents. If you notice your pet constantly licking their anal area, then visually inspect the area and your pet s stool for bits of tapeworm, which look like rice.
Whipworms live in the large intestine and cause dark diarrhea. If you notice blood in your pet s stool, collect a sample to take into your veterinarian, because the worms and eggs are only visible by microscope.
Hookworms attach themselves to your pet s intestinal lining, causing bloody or dark diarrhea.
Roundworms live in the small intestine and can cause vomiting and elements that resemble strands of spaghetti in your pet s stool. They are easily transmitted to humans, especially children, and can cause serious human health problems, including blindness. Be aware that you or your children may be gardening or playing in an area where a pet with roundworms has chosen as its litter box, making you susceptible to getting roundworms.
It s a good practice to collect a stool sample each year from your pets and to take your pet to your veterinarian to make sure that he is worm free. Most heartworm medicines available from your vet contain a preventative for whipworm, roundworm, and hookworm, so be sure to follow the recommended dosages.
External Pet Parasites Fleas, Ticks and Mites
The most common parasites having a celebration party, compliments of your pet, are fleas, ticks and mites. These parasites either live on or burrow into your pets skin.
Fleas are really troublesome. They can not only infest your pet, but they can invade and take over your home. Fleas are pretty easy to spot in your pets fur and you can easily notice your pets scratching as a sign of their discomfort.
If your dog or cat s skin becomes red and inflames, it could be a sign that your pet is allergic to fleas saliva. Cats can become infected very easily because they swallow about half of the fleas on their coats when they groom themselves.
Have you ever thought about trying an old fashioned flea dip? Don t do it! Those dips can be highly toxic and can cause some severe side effects like seizures, coma, fever, vomiting, and possibly death. Instead, you can easily apply a small amount of a prevention product to your pet s skin that will kill fleas and keep the adults from laying eggs. Ask us to suggest safe, effective products for your pets, and ask about any specials we have on those products when you visit.
Ticks are another common parasite, especially during the summer. Ticks can be found in almost any climate and they are always looking for a free ride on your pets. They are likely to be around in grassy, damp or wooded areas just waiting to attach themselves to your pets. Tick bites can cause a variety of reactions in your pet including irritation, skin damage, hypersensitivity and even anemia.
Tick bites can also transfer diseases to your pet: the common ones are Lyme disease, tick-borne fever, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If left untreated, these diseases can cause severe health problems and can also prove to be fatal. Ask us about the common symptoms of these diseases and if your pet is exhibiting any of them, bring them in right away.
The best tick prevention is to check your pet s skin and fur after spending time outdoors in areas that ticks prefer. Did you know that removing a tick the wrong way can hurt your furry friend. Don t try to burn it off; you could set your pets fur on fire. Instead try loosening the tick s grip by soaking a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and rubbing around the tick. Then use tweezers to grab the tick as close to the head as possible and slowly pull it out. Don t flush live ticks down the toilet; they can crawl back out. Kill the ticks first before flushing them. The easiest way to kill a tick is to place it in a sealed jar containing alcohol.
Mites are another parasite to keep an eye out for. As a pet owner you are probably familiar with ear mites. If you notice your pet scratching their ear intensely or biting themselves, or a brown or black crust on the outer ear, then your pet could have ear mites.
Another type of mite called scabies burrows into your pet s skin and lays their eggs. Once the eggs hatch the larvae feed off your pet and behind a secretion that causes severe itching and is highly contagious. That means it is time for a trip to your friendly vet to get that handled fast before infection sets in. Mites are best treated by your veterinarian rather than trying an at-home remedy or an over-the-counter medicine that may not be effective.
Prevention and Treatment of Pet Parasites
Pay close attention to your pet and if you notice any unusual behaviors such as passing diarrhea, vomiting, scratching their ears, scraping their bottom on the carpet, not eating or just not being themselves, it is a sign that something is wrong that deserves a visit to the vet. If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, see the resource box a the end of this article to see how we might help. A few preventive measures against pet parasites can insure that your pet and family remain healthy and happy.
Wishing your pet the best of health,
Dr. Al Paredes
Veterinarian Palm Harbor, Florida
how to rid your body of parasites and worms