As springtime approaches, it’s time to ramp up parasite prevention measures for your pet. If your pet isn’t on a year-round prevention program, here are some parasites you and your pet need to avoid:
1. Roundworms :
Roundworms are common parasites found in dogs and cats that are not on a regular preventative program. Roundworms are transmitted when an animal ingests the roundworm egg from the ground or from another animal’s feces. Roundworms are zoonotic, meaning they are contagious to people. People who contract roundworms can develop digestive problems as well as blindness. Roundworms are easily preventable, and a dewormer against roundworms is included in most monthly heartworm preventatives.
2. Hookworms: Hookworms are intestinal parasites with “suckers” that attach to the intestinal lining causing bleeding, anemia, and digestive problems. Hookworms are transmitted by ingesting the larval stages or by penetration of the skin by the hookworm larvae.
Larvae can also migrate within the body to the lungs and other organs. Hookworms are other parasites that can infect people. Again, hookworms are easily prevented by administering a monthly heartworm preventative.
3. Heartworms: Heartworms are worms that grow inside the heart and prevent the heart from functioning properly. Heartworm larvae are transmitted by mosquitoes from one infected animal to another animal. Heartworms can cause permanent heart damage, heart failure, and death. Both dogs and cats can get heartworms. In fact, a 2010 study found that a higher percentage of cats are infected with heartworms than dogs in every state except for Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. Heartworms can be prevented by administering a monthly heartworm preventative topically or orally. Animals must be tested to confirm that they
don’t already have the disease before starting the preventative. If dogs are already infected, there is a treatment, but the treatment is expensive and the disease may have already caused permanent heart damage. Homefront Veterinary House Calls recommends
year-round heartworm prevention for dogs and cats.
4. Fleas and Ticks: Most pet owners are all too familiar with these annoying parasites. Fleas and ticks bite the skin of animals and feed on blood from the host animal. During the feeding process, fleas and ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, plague, tapeworms, and typhus. Once animals become hosts to fleas and ticks, the owner’s home can become infested requiring professional
extermination. Fleas and ticks may be prevented by topical products that eliminate various stages of the pest’s life cycle. Homefront Veterinary House Calls recommends topical products such as Frontline, Advantage, and Revolution. We believe that these products are more effective and generally safer than flea/tick collars, shampoos, and powders.
5. Giardia: Giardia is a parasite that is transmitted through water sources (dogs drinking out of puddles, creeks, lakes, etc). It causes diarrhea and prevents absorption of nutrients from the GI tract. Giardiasis can be debilitating if not treated. Giardia affects 10% of dogs on a regular preventative program, 50% of puppies, and about 11% of cats. Since signs may be intermittent, we recommend testing for Giardia routinely at the animal’s yearly wellness visit. General dewormers used for other intestinal parasites and contained in most heartworm preventatives usually do not treat Giardia. For this reason, checking a stool sample for Giardia at least yearly is an important part of a good wellness preventative program.