Parasite is a scary word. The good news is that parasites in our companion animals are often easily treated and – even better – prevented.
ROUNDWORMS are the most common parasites we see in companion animals. These worms are acquired through a fecal-oral transmission and often set up shop in the intestines of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats. These worms can also be transmitted to people. Unfortunately, when in people, these roundworms can get lost and leave the intestine (this is called “visceral larval migrans”) in which the worms can go to the eye or brain causing permanent damage. The good news is that regular fecal examinations can determine if your pet has worms, further routine deworming provided by your veterinarian can stop any infestations your pet faces.
WHIPWORMS can infect humans as well as dogs and cats. The worms are normally absorbed by your pet from eating or drinking them and then travel to the large intestine where they can cause inflammation or even anemia (lower number of red blood cells) from sucking up so much blood. Whipworms are easy to treat in dogs and cats, responding to most of the same medication as the roundworms described above.
HOOKWORMS, in addition to being transmissible to people primarily through walking in bare feet, can create a hazard for your pet. Causing some significant anemia due to their taste for blood while hooked into the wall of the intestine, hookworms are also readily treated and cured with medication.
TAPEWORMS have the origin in the humble flea – a dog or cat must eat a flea in order to then wind up with a tapeworm growing long segments in his or her gut. Normally, an owner’s first sign of tapeworms are rice-like segments (which may be moving) near the anus or in pet’s stool. The good news, dual treatment of both fleas and the worms will lead to a tapeworm-free life.
HEARTWORMS can take a terrible toll on a dog or cat – and even lead to their death! Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Once bitten, the juvenile heartworms travel in the bloodstream to the heart and latch on. Here, the heartworms thrive, mature, and grow bigger for years. This causes damage to the heart wall, increases the likelihood of blood clots elsewhere in the body, and impedes blood flow. When the heartworms eventually die, they can become clots in the lung and cause extreme pain and lung injury. The treatment for heartworm disease is perilous, as we must kill all the mature worms in the heart, which can lead to the very problem we’re hoping to avoid – lung compromise and extreme pain. Pets must be carefully monitored throughout treatment and strict rest must be enforced for a period of months to avoid lung issues. Even with this treatment, recovery is not assured and some pets die. To avoid accidentally causing mature worms to die off, a heartworm test (4Dx) is administered annually, prior to refilling your heartworm prescription. Heartworm disease is easily preventable with a tasty, monthly, chewable tablet which most pets take as a treat. The cost for heartworm treatment is thousands of dollars with an unsure result, the cost of heartworm prevention is under $10 per month. Please come in for a heartworm test and prevention today!
FLEAS can affect even indoor pets – coming in through window screens, on human clothing, or riding on pets who do go outside. Once fleas enter a home, they constantly lay tiny eggs which fall onto your floors, furniture, pet bedding, and clothing. Fleas are not only a nuisance, they can create significant blood loss and introduce tapeworms. Flea infestation can even mask other diseases – meaning the causes of anemia, fatigue, or itching may go unexamined while there is a flea infestation. Typically, the longer your vet cannot define the source of a problem, the more severe a problem may become before your pet is started on treatment. Please keep your pet on flea prevention all year to prevent significant infestations.
There are so many different kinds of TICKS it can make your head spin! Each tick tends to carry a different type disease – Lyme Disease is only one of many which can cause your pet to become very ill or even die. In Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Deer Tick is primarily a concern because of Lyme disease, but Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehlichia, and sometimes even Anaplasmosis can affect your dog’s well-being. While we have tests for each of these diseases, it’s still true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Keeping your pet on tick prevention – or even more than one tick preventative if your pet is high risk – can be the difference between health and disease.
These are just the most common parasites! Do not hesitate to speak to your veterinarian about how we can partner with you to keep your pet at optimum health!