Parasites are a very common problem among pets, and most animals will experience them at some point during their lifetime. However, that doesn’t mean that they have to be a forgone conclusion. There are now more preventative treatments that can keep parasites at bay than ever before, enabling your furbaby to avoid the discomfort, irritation and potentially dangerous consequences that they can cause.
Parasites are organisms that live or inside a host and that get their food at the expense of their host. There are various different parasites that can affect our pets. Two of the most common external parasites are fleas and ticks. Fleas jump onto a passing host while ticks drop on or attach as they brush past them. They then bury themselves deep in their fur and attach to the skin using their mouth where they will drink your pet’s blood to sustain themselves. Once they are sated, they will usually drop off and look for another host a few days later. Ticks and fleas can carry a range of diseases which could make your pet sick.
The most common internal parasites are worms. There are many different types of worms that can affect our pets, including roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms and hook worms. These live inside the intestines where they too take their sustenance from your pet. As they reproduce, they can cause blockages that can make your pet very unwell. And just like external parasites, worms can carry diseases too.
Heartworms are a little different to other parasites. While they too are internal and take the form of worms, rather than living in the intestines, they are found in the blood vessels of the heart and lungs. They are much more dangerous than other types of worms because as they grow and reproduce, they can cause blockages in the heart vessels that can be deadly. An untreated heartworm infection in a dog will nearly always prove fatal.
Fortunately, there are a few things that responsible pet owners can do to keep their furry friends safe from parasites and heartworms.
With so many preventatives available, it can be a little overwhelming trying to pick the right one. Luckily, your vet will be happy to recommend the most suitable. Preventatives are available in a variety of forms including oral tablets, spot-on treatments, collars, shampoos and even injections. Each is only effective for a set amount of time before another dose is needed, so it’s important to keep track of when this is. Being late or missing their preventative leaves your pet vulnerable to parasite infestations.
When you’ve got pets or if you live somewhere with a lot of animals in the neighborhood, keeping your yard free from feces is easier said than done. However, internal parasites like roundworms are usually transmitted by coming into contact with eggs, which are passed out in the feces of infected animals. Since pets aren’t always particular about where they put their noses, keeping your yard clean is one of the best ways of preventing worm problems.
Heartworms are spread by mosquitos. One of the biggest misconceptions about mosquitos is that they are only prevalent in the summer months, when in fact, they can be found in some parts of the country all year round. This means that it’s essential to protect your pet against heartworms at all times, no matter where you are.
Not all parasites cause noticeable symptoms right away, but when they do appear, it can help if you know what to look for. The exact symptoms that your pet may present with may vary depending on what parasites they are affected by, but the most common signs including vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, blood in your pet’s stools, coughing and lethargy. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult with your vet right away.
Your vet is your best support when it comes to keeping your pet free from parasites. They understand exactly what to look for and can perform checks to make sure that your furry friend isn’t currently harbouring fleas or worms. Most vets will include fecal testing as part of your pet’s annual wellness check, and this is an effective way of checking for the presence of internal parasites. Meanwhile, regular heartworm testing is recommended for dogs of all ages as a matter of course.
If you would like more advice on parasite and heartworm prevention for your pet, please contact Greenwood Village Veterinary Clinic at (303) 771-6304 to reach our office in Greenwood Village, CO.