Summer time parasites
This year, we have seen quite a few pets with intestinal parasites! With warm weather and prolonged contact with the outdoors in dog parks and along sidewalks and trails frequented by wildlife such as rabbits, raccoons, and feral cats, many pets are getting infected with intestinal parasites. Kittens and puppies need to be de-wormed and have their stools tested for parasites every 3 months to control potentially dangerous endoparasites. Adult dogs and cats should have their stool samples tested every 6 months as well. Read on to learn more about both external and internal parasites your pets may encounter this year. In the meantime, get your pet’s stool tested by a veterinarian, de-wormed as advised by your vet, and maintain a clean, feces-free yard to help minimize infestation and re-infestation of worms.
There are several species of external parasites, but the most common are ticks and fleas. Ticks are arachnids that drink the blood of their host (your dog or cat). When engorged, they are easily recognizable by their bean shape. In Western Washington, ticks are most often encountered in the Cascades and east of that range. In this state Western black-legged ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, American dog ticks, and soft ticks are all common. These arachnids can transmit Lyme disease and can also cause tick paralysis. Ticks can also transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesia, and cause Rickettsial anaplasmosis
Common to all areas of Washington is the ubiquitous leaping insect, the flea. This tiny insect finds its ways to dogs and cats whether they go outside or not. Aside from causing obnoxious itching, and flea allergy dermatitis, fleas can transmit Bartonellosis . In addition, they also are vectors for a common endoparasite, the tapeworm. Both athropodic vermin, fleas and ticks, can be destroyed by floor sprays, and by using topical and oral preventatives. These topical and oral products can be used during the months in which flea and tick infestation is likely, but in many cases the products may need to be used year round.
In addition to ectoparasites, there are many internal parasites that can infest your cat or dog as well. In Washington, tapeworms, usually Dipylidium caninum, are transmitted by fleas. The topical flea and tick preventatives mentioned above are usually sufficient in preventing infestation, but they can also be eradicated by oral medications. Roundworms are also common in this state. The two species which are seen are Toxocara and Toxascaris . These parasites’ eggs are found in the soil and may be ingested along with grass and feces. Puppies may also get the worms from their dam in utero. Both kinds of endoparasites are identified by your veterinarian by looking at a fresh stool sample under a microscope to identify the species according to eggs. Puppies should have their stools checked frequently and be dewormed as needed. Adult dogs as well, can have their feces tested twice yearly.
Endoparasites outside of Washington
If you are traveling out of state this year, be also mindful of parasites in other regions. Whip worms, of the species Trichuris trichiura can be found in the Southeastern region of the United States. Like roundworms, they can be identified by stool sample. A more serious threat is the heartworm . This parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, is spread by mosquito bites and can be found wherever mosquitoes are common. Dogs traveling outside of Washington should have a heartworm test to determine if they are negative for the parasite. If they are negative, they can start on an oral or topical vermicide to prevent an infection from this extremely deadly parasite. Unlike other endoparasites, heartworms directly affect the circulatory system and cannot be destroyed with over the counter medications intended for intestinal parasites.
As one can see, while there are many parasites that can infect your dog or cat at home or abroad, you are not without resources to combat these foes. Tests can determine if your pet already has parasites, and many medications exist to prevent and treat these obnoxious and sometimes even potentially deadly hitchhikers. Speak with your veterinarian today about your vacation plans and which precautions you need to take for your trip.