Pet Parasites Veterinarian

Parasites are organisms which survive at the expense of other organisms. When your pet becomes infected with a parasite, whether internal or external, it can have a serious negative impact on their well-being. However, most of these infestations are easily treated or easily prevented, sometimes both.

Internal Parasites

The kind of parasite we see more than any other in companion animals are roundworms. Animals contract these worms by fecal-oral transmission, and they are therefore especially common in puppies from puppy mills and shops, as these dogs are easily exposed to the worms in close-quarter conditions. After transmission, roundworms take up residence in the intestines of their host, potentially leading to anemia, inflammation, and, in puppies and kittens, failure to thrive. It is even possible for humans to become infected with roundworms; the worms sometimes wind up in the eye, under the skin or in the brain in what is known as visceral larva migrans, which causes permanent damage. Luckily, regular fecal examinations allow us to diagnose roundworms, and routine deworming is sufficient treatment for your pet, decreasing any chance of human family members becoming infected.

Tapeworms are another kind of parasite which infects the intestines of their host. They are most commonly transmitted to dogs and cats when they eat a flea. These pests are most commonly detected in pets when their owners notice rice-like segments in their stool or near the pet’s rectum. Tapeworms cause irritation and can lead to weight loss, but treatment for both the tapeworms and the fleas which carry them is easily implemented.

Puppies and kittens frequently acquire hookworms by drinking milk from their infected mother; while adult cats and dogs will acquire them through exposure to water or an environment which has been contaminated, often by feces. Despite their microscopic size, an infection of hookworms can cause serious and even fatal anemia as the worms drink blood from the small intestine. In most cases, however, a treatment which either expels or kills the parasites is simple and effective.

A dog or cat can contract whipworms when he or she eats contaminated food or drinks contaminated water. These intestinal parasites may cause anemia, weight loss, diarrhea, inflammation, and/or dehydration, or may have no symptoms at all, and therefore are very hard to diagnose in the absence of regular testing. These parasites are similarly easy to treat, as they can be eliminated by a prescription dewormer from your veterinarian.

Heartworms are both harder to treat and more dangerous than the aforementioned parasites. These organisms are carried from animal to animal by mosquitoes, who inject heartworm larvae when they bite. The larvae then make their way to the heart, where they mature into adults. The adult worms irritate the cardiac tissue they infest, and over time can obstruct the vessels, leading to heart failure. Even when they are treated, the damage caused by these organisms before they are killed is permanent. Fortunately, heartworm prevention is easy and effective, consisting of a monthly chewable tablet.

External Parasites

Our climate is well suited for fleas, and they are common even among indoor pets. These pests are more than just an itch-inducing nuisance. A large number of flea bites may lead to significant blood loss, and they serve as vectors for a variety of diseases. The advancement of veterinary medicine has made Flea Control more readily available than ever. Today, it only takes a topical liquid applied directly to the skin or a chewable medication to kill adult fleas and prevent reinfestation.

Ticks, unlike fleas, will usually only attach to an animal that has been outdoors. There are a wide variety of tick species in the area, and each tends to carry a different disease. Some of the more common tick-borne illnesses in this part of the country are Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis, all of which are serious, and some of which can even be fatal. We can detect and treat these diseases, but it is better to prevent them. Ticks can survive in cold temperatures, even snow, so if you have an outdoor pet, preventative measures against ticks are in order.

This is not a complete list of parasites, but only a description of some of the more common types. Talk with our veterinarian today to plan a preventative care regimen fitted to your pet’s lifestyle.