iStock_000016769011_MediumNo one likes to think about parasites. Unfortunately, they are a reality in pets (and people too!). Part of responsible pet ownership is protecting your pets from unwanted invaders. Doing so helps to keep dogs and cats healthier longer.

Parasites in Pets

It is not uncommon for our pets to be affected by one or more parasites at some point in their life. Parasites are organisms that live on or in a host (your pet) and benefits by taking nutrients from its host. There are a wide range of parasites that affect our animals. Some are just annoying, while others can cause major illness or even death.

Intestinal parasites – Several common parasites can thrive in your pet’s intestinal tract. Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia are some of the more common intestinal parasites that we see. Often pets are infected with these when they are exposed to infected feces or soil or water contaminated with infected feces, although other routes of transmission are possible depending on the individual parasite. These can cause digestive problems, poor haircoat, and failure to thrive.

External parasites – Parasites such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, and sarcoptic mange (scabies) are often itchy and annoying. Ticks and fleas especially can carry contagious diseases and extreme cases can be life threatening.

Heartworms – These worms that grow in the heart are transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworms can affect dogs and cats alike and pets often do not display symptoms until things are serious.

Preventing Parasites in Pets

Fortunately, pet parasite prevention has come a long way. We have a wide variety of pet parasite preventative products at our disposal. Some pets do best with a monthly topical preventative treatment while others benefit from an oral option. Most of these types of products primarily focus on heartworm, flea, and/or tick prevention, however many also provide some protection against intestinal parasites as well. We are happy to walk you through the best ways to protect your pets.

Be sure to allow us to test your pets for parasites at least annually. Fecal screening tests are utilized to detect intestinal parasites, while blood testing is needed to screen for heartworm disease.

A Note About Pet Parasites and People

While most pet parasites prefer their animal hosts, in rare instances people can be affected by these parasites as well. Diseases that can be transmitted between pets and people are called zoonoses.

The possibility of transmission between species makes it more important than ever before to use good parasite prevention measures for all pets in your household. When these products are utilized and you take proper precautions, you don’t need to be worried about this risk.

Parasites are almost always easier and less expensive to prevent than to treat before the fact, than after. Be sure to ask us how to best protect your family, furry and not, from pet parasites.