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Pet Parasites: The Importance of Screening and Protection

pet parasitesPet parasites are pesky all year long, but spring does encourage their proliferation. The warm weather and increased amounts of rain bring to life, not only the blossoms, but also many viruses and parasites.

Because most of us enjoy being out-and-about with our pets during the warmer months, it’s important to understand the risks that coincide with these pet parasites and what you can do to keep your best friend safe.

Pet Parasites 101

Parasites come in many forms, and most responsible pet parents know their furry friend needs protection from fleas, ticks, and heartworm year-round. Maintaining important preventives can keep infestations and serious diseases like Lyme disease, cat scratch fever, and heartworm disease at bay.

However, there are other parasites you may not have considered lurking in the water, soil, and fecal matter.

Internal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms, can also wreak havoc on a pet’s health. In fact, these parasitic worms are usually found in all puppies and kittens, which is why all youngsters go through screening and deworming. Unfortunately, adult pets are also prone to these infections and require annual screening and treatment (when infection is present).

Aside from the gross factor, internal parasites can also cause a range of health problems, from bloody diarrhea to weight loss and anemia. Hookworms are also a concern for parents, as they’re a zoonotic infection, meaning they can be passed on to people (children are at much greater risk).

That’s why we recommend fecal testing at least once a year, especially when your pet spends a lot of time outdoors or in areas with other pets, such as dog parks and doggie daycares.

Don’t Forget About Leptospirosis and Giardia

Although owners may be less familiar with them, leptospirosis and giardia are two bacterial illnesses that are on the rise across the United States.

Leptospirosis is a bacteria in the Leptospira genus and can be found in many wild animals – especially rodents. Leptospirosis is most often transmitted through urine, contaminated soil, and standing water sources. Symptoms include fever, vomiting/diarrhea, and kidney and liver damage (when left untreated).

Giardia is another parasitic illness caused by a single-celled protozoan that is spread between mammals, including humans. Giardia can also be found in water sources, such as ponds and puddles, but has recently been found in public parks and other urban areas.

This illness attacks the gastrointestinal system, resulting in severe diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.

Prevention is the Best Form of Protection

Given the severity of some of these illnesses, prevention is the best approach:

  • Have your pet screened annually, and keep him or her on a year-round parasite preventive.
  • Use caution when exploring natural areas. Discourage snarfling around in the soil and drinking from puddles or other standing water.
  • Bring your own bowl and fresh water each time you visit a park or other outdoor area.
  • Remember your pet’s vaccine boosters, as highly contagious illnesses like distemper and parvovirus can be life-threatening,

To schedule an appointment or for more information about pet parasites and screening, please give us a call. We are also proud to offer a Walk-In Wellness Clinic for exams, vaccines & monthly updates from 3pm – 4pm on Tuesdays & Wednesdays.

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