Pet Parasites Veterinarian

Parasites are organisms that survive at the expense of other organisms. If your pet becomes infected with parasites, whether internal or external, they 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 kinds of parasites we see more than any other in companion animals are roundworms. Animals contract these worms by fecal-oral transmission. Therefore, they are 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 their host’s intestines, 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, known as visceral larva migrans, which cause lasting 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 that infects the intestines of their host. They are most frequently 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 often acquire hookworms by drinking milk from their infected mother. In contrast, adult cats and dogs will acquire them through exposure to water or an environment that 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. However, in most cases, a treatment that 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; therefore, they are very hard to diagnose in the absence of regular testing. These parasites are similarly easy to treat, as a prescription dewormer can eliminate them from your veterinarian.

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

External Parasites

Our climate is well suited for fleas, and they are common even in indoor pets. These pests are more than just an itch-inducing nuisance. Many 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 generally only attach to an animal that has been outdoors. There are many 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 necessary.

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