Parasites and Pets: More Than Just a Pest-y Problem

Happy dog outside in the grass with tongue outFrom mosquitoes to tapeworms to ticks; parasites and pets mix too well, oftentimes unknown to the most attentive of owners. Even innocuous agents, like Giardia and Trichinella—can be dangerous, especially for our furry friends.

The problem with parasites and pets is that pets often make very good (though unintentional) hosts. In addition, parasites can be harmful to humans as well.

To learn more about what you can do to prevent parasitic illnesses, the team at Maywood Veterinary Clinic explores the (icky) world of parasites.

Parasites and Pets 101

First, dogs and cats…these pets typically experience the parasites we worry about more frequently – particularly fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

Fleas—Fleas are the most common external parasite among cats and dogs. They’re particularly prolific in their reproductive cycle, with one flea being capable of laying 50 eggs per day! Flea infestations, as you might expect, are difficult to remedy, often requiring professional assistance, as well as major efforts to treat and prevent their recurrence.

Common problems caused by fleas include flea bite dermatitis (allergy), cat-scratch disease (Bartonella henselae), tapeworms, and anemia.

Ticks—Ticks are synonymous with Lyme disease (and for good reason), but they also carry other dangerous illnesses, like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis. Ticks are prevalent in our region and, like fleas, feed off the blood of a host, transmitting diseases between infected and uninfected animals.

Heartworms—Heartworm disease continues to be on the rise, and while it affects more dogs, cats are being more frequently diagnosed. Heartworm disease can cause damage to the heart and lungs, resulting in the risk of heart failure. This disease is transmitted by mosquitoes that transfer tiny heartworms, called microfilariae, from infected to uninfected animals.

While there are other parasites that can affect your pet, such as ear mites, it’s important to protect your four-legged friend from the most perilous among these pests year-round. At Maywood, we tailor our parasite prevention recommendations to the individual pet for the safest, best protection possible.

Exotic Pets

Cats and dogs are not the only pets affected by parasites. Many exotic pets naturally carry certain parasites that can be harmful.

Gastrointestinal parasites are a big problem for reptiles, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, hamsters, and other rodents. These animals are often diagnosed with pinworm, tapeworm, hookworm, roundworm, and coccidia, among others.

A big component of small mammal or other exotic pet care is practicing good husbandry and learning as much as you can about your unique pet. We’re happy to answer your questions, and during your pet’s wellness exam we encourage screening for common parasites that can be harmful to both your pet and your family.

Zoonotic Diseases and You

Last but certainly not least, parasites can harm you and your family through zoonotic illnesses. Zoonosis is the scientific term for a disease that can be passed from animals to humans. This can be particularly concerning for infants and young children who can pick up something like roundworm through handling an animal without proper hygiene.

It’s important to take precautions with any pet through hand washing, using gloves when handling reptiles (who carry E. coli and salmonella), and learning more about zoonosis and household pets.

For more information on protecting your pets from parasites, please give us a call at (201) 800-6039.