It’s not just a tiny flea
Parasites in both dogs and cats take many forms, but they all have one thing in common: their presence will (almost always) have an impact on your pet’s health or comfort. They can cause anything from mild irritation to serious illness. Both ectoparasites (external parasites such as fleas and ticks) and endoparasites (internal parasites such as hookworms and tapeworms) can affect your pet at some point in their life.
The most common external parasites found on dogs and cats worldwide are fleas. Although fleas are more likely to be a problem during warm weather, they can also be a pest during cooler seasons due to their ability to continue their life cycle indoors. Both fleas and ticks carry and transmit several potential illnesses that can affect humans of all ages. Particularly in North America, ticks transmit a large number of diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, tick paralysis and tularemia (a bacterial infection that causes ulcers on skin). Control and prevention of ticks is an extremely important aspect of keeping your family safe.
In addition to being a nuisance, fleas are responsible for flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) in dogs and cats. It is estimated to account for over 50% of all dermatological cases reported to veterinarians. Dogs and cats with FAD do not have to be infested with fleas to be itchy. In fact, a single fleapit can cause itching for several days since it’s the flea saliva that is causing the allergic response. Another interesting fact (bear with us), is that a single flea can give birth to over 50 eggs A DAY! This is why it is important to prevent fleas by using monthly oral or topical flea and tick preventatives. After all, it protects your pet, your home, and your family.
What we can’t see on the inside
Sadly, all breeds regardless of age or sex are susceptible to internal parasites. Hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and heartworms are some preventable parasites that your furry friend can get.
Hookworms will attach to the wall of the stomach and puncture blood vessels to feed. People can become infected when walking barefoot or getting in contact with feces. Some of the most common symptoms are:
Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasites in dogs. Almost all dogs will become infested of roundworms at some point in their life. These parasites can also be transmitted to humans by accidentally ingesting infective soil or other contaminates surfaces. Some of the most common symptoms are:
• Diarrhea with mucus.
Tapeworms are flat, segmented worms that are found within the small intestine. Each segment (shaped like a grain of rice) can become an independent parasite. This is not readily transmitted to humans, as swallowing an infected flea is required to become infected. However, when it does occur, infection is more common in children. Some of the most common symptoms are:
• Segments visible in feces.
• Shaggy coat.
Whipworms attach to the cecum and colon (large intestine) causing a lot of irritation. Luckily for us, it is so rare for humans to get whipworms from dogs that it is not considered a threat to people. Some of the most common symptoms are:
Since pets who are infected with intestinal parasites may exhibit subtle or no symptoms at all, preventable care like regular fecal exams and check-ups are essential. If you ever notice any of these symptoms in your pet, collect a stool sample and bring it in. We can have results within minutes!
Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states and is only contracted by the bite of an infected mosquito. It can take about 7 months for your pet to actually start showing symptoms of infection. It’s a specific parasite that only affects dogs, cats, and other mammals. In rare cases, heartworms have infected people, but it does not complete its life cycle. However, these are very rare cases. Some of the most common symptoms in the early stages are: