The spring is coming and this warmer weather lets you spending more time outdoors with your pet, but this can also means than your pet can encounters with parasites.
It doesn’t matter if your pet is a cat or dog. Both of them can have a parasites living in their bodies. The parasite can live IN or ON another organism and can feed off that organism. To protect your pet from parasites you need to take few preventive measures to save your money on vet bill, and even save your pets’ lives. But of course the regular monitoring of any changes in behavior, appetite, or water consumption and the visits to your vet are also the important part of care and well-being of your dog. Parasites can affect your dog in different ways, ranging from simple irritation to causing life-threatening conditions if you left that untreated.
There are two types which can affect your pet: External and Internal parasites.
External parasites are living on the skin or hair follicles, outside the pet’s body and include fleas, mites and ticks. In most cases these parasites can cause itchiness, skin irritation and hair loss and can affect both cats and dogs.
Fleas – These are tiny parasites, living everywhere, in the grass and soil outside and in thick carpet fibers inside. Can cause anemia, plus transmit tapeworm infection and lead to flea allergy dermatitis. Fleas may go unnoticed until your pet begins scratching excessively. Treatments are available through your veterinarian and vary depending on the animal and the severity of the problem.
“The best solution to combat the flea problem is to see your vet and get your pet on a monthly prescription flea prevention program. These medications kill any fleas on the pet quickly and make it difficult for them to reproduce in the house. Medications cost $20 per month on average, but they can relieve a lot of problems before they begin.” -said Peter Rule, a veterinarian for Ferndale’s Glacierview Animal Hospital.
Mites – These can cause demodectic and sarcoptic mange, two skin conditions that lead to hair loss, intense itching and scabs. Sarcoptic mange (known as scabies) is highly contagious to humans and other animals. There are mites that affect the skin and mites that are found in the ears of both cats and dogs. Sarcoptic mange mites or scabies are very contagious from dog to dog, while demodectic mange mites are not. Both cause scaly skin patches, but a dog infected with demodectic mange mites usually will not itch, while one with scabies will. Both conditions are treatable, but a dog or cat with suspected demodectic mange mites should be examined by a veterinarian. Ear mites will make your pet scratch their ears, and a brown or black discharge may be present. These mites can be treated with medication and cleaning of the ears.
Ticks – These can transmit Lyme disease, which can cause severe anemia or death in dogs. It’s rare in cats. Any animal playing outdoors in wooded areas may pick up a tick. The little bloodsuckers need to be removed promptly. Ticks can spread Lyme disease and other infectious diseases. When removing a tick from your pet, never crush it or yank it from the skin. Use tweezers to remove the entire tick. Consult your veterinarian if you’re unable to remove the entire tick.
Internal parasites – These parasites live inside your pet’s body and can be puny and tiny which can wreak havoc on your pet’s health, so don’t let their size fool you. Internal parasites can cause some abdominal pain, like diarrhea and general discomfort and weakness. Large infestations can cause the belly to swell. Heartworm has no early symptoms; by the time the infestation is severe, pets will start having difficulty breathing and tire quickly.
Four types of worms are especially common and troublesome: hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms. Hookworms and roundworms can be passed on to people. Hookworms can be deadly if untreated, especially in puppies.
Heartworms – These are one of the most common parasites which can affect both, dogs and cats and they are serious threats to your pets’ healthAdult heartworms set up in the heart and lungs, reproducing quickly until they cause kidney and liver damage, internal bleeding and congestive heart failure. Heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites and are deadly if untreated. To prevent heartworms, pets need a monthly dose of one of three chemicals: ivermectin (sold as Heartgard, Iverhart Max or Ivomec), selamectin (sold as Revolution) or milbemycin oxime (sold as Interceptor, which Elanco plans to bring back to the market in 2015).
Which one’s best for your pet depends on its breed (some dogs, like collies, are sensitive to ivermectin) and whether you have a dog or a cat.
Heartworm larvae are transmitted through mosquito bites, and eventually work their way to the chambers of the heart, where they can impede blood flow and cause organ damage throughout the body. In dogs, there are often no symptoms at all, so it’s important to bring your dog to the vet for frequent heartworm screenings.
While it’s more common for heartworms to appear in dogs, feline heartworms can be just as devastating and usually require different methods of treatment. Cats will tend to lose weight, suffer from diarrhea and display difficulty breathing. In either case, your vet can easily and inexpensively treat the parasite.
Heartworms can be easily prevented. Most preventative heartworm medications are either oral or topical, and must be given monthly. These medications kill the heartworm larvae before they have a chance to mature into adult heartworms. It is important to medicate even indoor pets, as mosquitoes can get inside.
Hookworms – Hookworms affect both dogs and cats, infecting the animals through ingestion the same as roundworms, or they can enter through the animal’s skin. Hookworms can be passed to puppies through a mother’s milk as well. Symptoms include diarrhea, lack of appetite and bloody stools.
Giardia – A parasite that can cause a particular problem for those of us who live near the water is giardia. Giardia is a microscopic, water-born parasite most commonly found in the feces of affected animals or humans. Pets can get infected with giardia by drinking from infected water sources and, as any pet owner knows, animals will drink out of just about anything. Pets with giardia will present symptoms similar to dysentery, including vomiting and diarrhea.
The best way to prevent against giardia is to keep a close eye on your pet’s water supply. Make sure they don’t get too excited about that stagnant puddle in the park, and instead pack in a fresh source of clean water for your dog to drink.
Always check with your vet before starting any medications or treatments. For more tips on pet care, visit humanesociety.org.
Keeping your pet healthy – A clean environment helps your pet. If no fleas, ticks or sick animals are around, the chances your pet will become ill drop considerably. If you have a flea or tick infestation, you’ll need to treat your pet plus wash linens, pillows and pet beds in hot water to kill any parasites or eggs on them.