Parasites are often thought of as a standard part of pet ownership, but they don’t have to be. Modern veterinary medicine means that it is now easier and more affordable than ever to prevent parasites from affecting your precious animal and causing them unnecessary irritation and suffering.
There are quite a few different parasites that can affect our pets, and these can be divided into two categories – internal and external parasites.
You have probably heard of worming your pet. This process is done to help deal with internal parasites as the vast majority of them take the form of a worm. There are multiple species of worm that can live inside your pet, including tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, and heartworms. All worms, with the exception of heartworms, are transmitted via contact with the bodily fluids of an infected animal, or by eating contaminated food. The worms they produce live in the intestine and cause all manner of unpleasant symptoms from abdominal pain and fever to vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy.
Heartworms are a little different. Spread by mosquitos, the larvae travel through the blood to the blood vessels of the heart and lungs where they make their home. They grow up to a foot long and start to reproduce, causing blockages in the flow of blood around your pet’s body. Left untreated, heartworms are almost always fatal. Symptoms are very subtle and difficult to spot too, so prevention against them should be a priority for any responsible pet owner.
These are the parasites that more people are familiar with since they live on the outside of your pet’s body. The most common external parasites are fleas and ticks. Both drink the blood of your pet until they are sated before they move on. This mightn’t sound too serious until you factor in the unpleasant symptoms that they cause and that both can transmit diseases. Fleas reproduce at an astronomic rate, enabling just a few to become a small population in just a few short weeks. This means that they can drain significant amounts of blood from your pet, putting them at risk of anemia. Fleas also cause intense itching that can lead to redness and infection. Ticks are larger than fleas so easier to spot. However, they can spread some serious diseases including Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Their bite is highly irritating too, and infections of ticks can be just as unpleasant for your pet as that of fleas.
Parasite prevention can take many different forms and our experienced and knowledgeable veterinary team would be happy to help you find the solutions that are most suitable for your pet.
Most preventatives are available as monthly treatments either in the form of pills/capsules, spot-on topical treatments, or collars. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, it is essential that your chosen preventative is administered on time every month without fail as being just a few days late can put your pet at risk of catching a parasitic infection.
More recently, heartworm preventatives have become available as 6-monthly or 12-monthly injections. These are only available via your veterinarian and must be administered professionally. One of the key benefits of this is that it ensures that your pet gets the complete dose at the appointment which increases the likelihood of your pet experiencing the full effectiveness of its preventative capabilities.
In the case of heartworms, our veterinary team will also strongly recommend that your pet has annual heartworm testing. This is important since it can take at least six months for signs of an infection to appear and early detection is crucial if treatment is to be successful. Your pet’s general health check will also screen for other parasites such as worms, which can be seen via a stool sample.
If you need more advice on parasite prevention and control for your pet, our team would be delighted to help. Please contact Country Veterinary Clinic in Live Oak, CA.