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Posted on 03-25-2015

You’ve been hearing about fleas and ticks for years, but there are additional parasites that you can’t see and probably haven’t heard of that are just as prevalent. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Disclaimer- those with a weak stomach read with caution. 

Some parasites live on the outside of your pets- like fleas, ticks and lice. These parasites cause itching and scratching. Fleas can also transmit intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms, and bacterial diseases, such as cat scratch fever (bartonellosis), to humans. In severe infestations, fleas can remove so much blood through feeding that they cause anemia.

Another group of parasites are internal, and some are so small we use DNA tests to identify and diagnose them. Several types of intestinal worms are common in cats and dogs: whipworms, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and some protozoa called coccidians. If infected your pet may or may not have clinical signs (diarrhea, lethargy, disinterest in food, and even vomiting), so these infections can easily go undetected without routine screening tests. Another internal parasite- giardia can be contracted through contaminated creeks, rivers, or from other dogs.

Arguably the most dangerous parasite is heartworm. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos, is highly infectious, and fatal if left untreated. Monthly prevention is imperative to keep pets safe and protected. Even indoor cats get heartworm disease! 

We are fortunate to live in a beautiful area with wildlife in our backyards, but the downside is that these animals (coyote, deer, feral swine, squirrels, etc.) carry parasites that are contagious to dogs and cats. Our pets are regularly exposed due to fecal shedding outside in your pet’s environment. The majority of these parasites are also zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted to humans. We follow the guidelines from the Center for Disease Control which recommends routine fecal testing and routine deworming of pets. Different prevention products work differently and newer products can even be given orally, with no slimy residue or odor. The best way to keep you, your pets, and your family safe is to talk with your veterinarian about the best prevention option for you. 

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