Cats and dogs are susceptible to a number of parasitic infections, several of which are zoonotic (possess the ability to infect people as well as animals). Parasite prevention is not only important for the health of your pet but also for the health of your family.
Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are troublesome parasites of the skin. Flea and tick prevention is important because not only can they cause problems with the skin, but they possess the ability to transmit a number of diseases to the pet. Fortunately, there are many safe and highly effective products available at North Shore Animal Hospital that can treat and prevent flea and tick infestations. Regular use of one of these products can effectively prevent fleas and ticks from becoming a problem for your pet. It may be tempting to purchase an over the counter product for your pet’s protection, but be cautious since many of these products can have serious side effects if used improperly and may have limited effectiveness.
The most common intestinal parasites in dogs and cats include hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, giardia and coccidia. All of these organisms possess the ability to cause illness in your pet. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and poor overall condition; although parasites can affect your animal’s health long before you notice any symptoms. Additionally, roundworms, hookworms and some tapeworms are zoonotic parasites, which mean that they can also infect humans. It is for these reasons that you should contact your veterinarian to check on setting up a routine testing schedule and monthly preventatives. At North Shore Animal Hospital, we recommend internal parasite testing once or twice annually depending on life style.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) was developed in 2002 in order to provide guidelines for parasite control in cats and dogs. The panel is composed of experts in parasitology, veterinary medicine and from the CDC (Center for Disease Control). They have developed detailed information on parasite control in companion animals. For more information on CAPC go to www.petsandparasites.org.
Screening for Intestinal Parasites
Most intestinal parasites are not overtly visible in feces. Your veterinarian is able to screen for infection by processing a small sample of your pet’s feces. We use an outside laboratory for reliable, comprehensive analysis. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommends that a fecal analysis be performed 2-4 times during the first year of life for puppies and kittens and at least 1-2 times per year for adult animals.
Prevention and Treatment
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has developed detailed guidelines for parasite control and prevention in dogs and cats. The first step in intestinal parasite prevention is appropriate deworming of puppies and kittens early in life. Young animals acquire intestinal parasites from their mother while in her uterus or through her milk. Therefore, a large percentage of puppies and kittens are infected with intestinal parasites at the time they are adopted. Puppies and kittens should be dewormed every 2-3 weeks until they are 12 weeks old. Animals that are older should be dewormed at least twice when they are first adopted. Once initial deworming is completed, dogs and cats should be put on a monthly, year-round product that prevents intestinal parasites as well as heartworm infection.
The yard or area where your pet eliminates can become contaminated with intestinal parasite eggs. This can lead to problems with reinfection of your pet or exposure and infection of future pets or humans. Immediate removal of feces from the yard greatly reduces the chance that the property will become contaminated with an intestinal parasite.
Heartworm is a worm that resides in the heart and lungs of infected dogs and cats. It is carried by mosquitoes that transmit heartworm larva into the bloodstream of the pet when they bite them. These larva then develop into adult worms that over time cause heart disease and respiratory problems in dogs. In cats, the signs can be more vague including vomiting, coughing, weight loss and sudden death. Fortunately this is a preventable disease and there are a number of excellent monthly heartworm preventatives available through your veterinarian. These products when given year-round provide outstanding protection against heartworm disease, and many also protect against several important intestinal parasites that can infect dogs, cats and people. There are even all in one products that prevent heartworm, intestinal worms, ticks and fleas. We can help you decide which product is best for you and your pet.