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Cooties, bugs, worms. No matter what you call them, parasites are the lowest of the low. They suck blood, steal nutrients, and spread disease. They are disgusting, and it’s easy to understand why no one wants to think their dog or cat could possibly be infested.
Yet parasites are a fact of life for many pets, a fact of life we can change. Parasites can live in the fur – ticks, fleas, even lice. They can live in the intestinal tract – whipworms, roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. They can even live in the heart and lungs. At times, they can be a nuisance, but in many cases, parasites can cause illness and even life-threatening illness. Many of these parasites can also be spread to humans.
In large part, the answer lies in how our pets define “fun”. Rolling on the ground, nibbling who-knows-what in the back yard, associating with other pets out on walks. Even our indoor-only cats are at risk when they hunt the stray insect that runs through the house in the middle of the night or get bitten by a bloodthirsty mosquito that has followed us inside.
Fortunately, most parasites can be prevented. Most monthly heartworm preventatives will eliminate several species of intestinal parasites. An annual or semi-annual fecal will screen for those parasites that the preventatives don’t protect against. There are a number of monthly flea and tick preventatives, including chewable tablets. These are important to reduce the risk of diseases like Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis, which are transmitted by ticks.
Parasites are an often ignored, grossly misunderstood, painfully under appreciated threat to the health of our pets. Even the indoor-only pets! Annual screening and year-round use of monthly prevention can go a long way to ensure our pets lead healthy, happy lives.
-Dr. Ginger Templeton, DVM