More and more, pets are becoming an important part of the family circle. Part of ensuring that this special human-animal bond continues to grow is practicing an effective parasite prevention program.
Dogs and cats, even ones that only live indoors, can be affected by parasites. These parasites can live internally, like roundworms, or externally, like fleas and ticks. It is very common for our household pets to become infected with parasites at some point in their life. The symptoms can range from an inapparent infection to severe life-threatening illness depending on the type of parasite and the overall health of the pet. Your veterinarian can accurately diagnose and safely treat parasites and other health problems that not only affect your furry friend, but also the safety of you and your family.
Some infections that occur in dogs and cats can, unfortunately, be passed to humans. These are called zoonoses.
Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are the most common intestinal nematodes in companion animals. Roundworms can be a significant cause of zoonotic disease, especially in young children and immunocompromised people. Roundworms can also survive the harsh climate that we experience in this part of the country, making year-round transmission a possibility. For these reasons, it is very important that we practice monthly deworming even through the winter months.
Giardia is another common intestinal parasite. This protozoa is not treated by routine monthly deworming so it is important to conduct fecal examinations two or more times a year during the first year of life and at least once per year in adults, depending on patient health and lifestyle factors.
Puppies and kittens are especially prone to parasitism because they are easily reinfected through their environment and nursing. Also, they often harbour migrating larvae, which begin to mature and produce eggs. Biweekly deworming is recommended until 12 weeks of age, at which time a monthly parasite prevention program is initiated.
If you are concerned that your pet is affected by any type of parasite, please contact your veterinary health care provider for advice. Many over the counter medications are not as effective and may actually pose a health risk to your pet.