No one likes to think of parasites on (or inside) their pets, but it’s important to talk about them and to guard against them!
So, what is a parasite? Sharply defined: it is an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host and in this case your pet) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. Wow – sounds yucky!
In veterinary medicine there are two major classes of parasites: external and internal parasites.
External parasites (called Ectoparasites) live on the outside of the host and include fleas, ticks, mites and lice. They often get nourishment from sucking blood through the skin and typically cause sores on your pet’s skin and intense itching. Some external parasites you can even visualize on your pet’s skin.
If having a parasite wasn’t bad enough, some parasites can also transmit other diseases to your pet such as Lymes disease or Tick Fever! Unfortunately, recent research indicates endo- and ectoparasite populations on the rise throughout the United States. Could this be due to parasite resistance to some older preventatives?! This question has led to the development of newer drug classes of preventatives, one of which is called Isoxazoline such as Bravecto® and Credelio®.
Internal parasites (called Endoparasites) live on the inside of the host and include roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm, heartworm, flukes, and even lungworm. Depending upon their location, they might get their nourishment the intestinal tract or from within blood vessels.
Symptoms associated with endoparasites vary and are related to their location in the host body. Your pet could experience weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, itching around his bottom, changes in appetite, or even fatigue as the parasite feeds off the host body. Some pets may experience coughing or even changes in water intake as the parasite indirectly damages your pet’s kidneys!
Generally, these parasites have a natural “reservoir”. This is an animal in the wild who harbors the parasite in its intestine where the parasite’s microscopic (invisible-to-the-naked-eye) eggs pass through the reservoir’s stool. If your pet comes across these eggs in the environment, then the parasite can grow inside your pet. Parasite eggs can lurk many places, including parks, backyards, potting soil, sand pits, streams, mud, etc. As more and more people live in urban interface areas, our pets encounter wild life droppings more frequently. Some internal parasites, such as heartworm, are transmitted through the bite of a mosquito and indoor dogs and cats are NOT immune to these pesky pests!
Unfortunately, your pet can pass many of these parasites on to you or your children! Fortunately, most monthly heartworm preventatives, such as Interceptor® Plus or Heartgard® Plus are formulated to eradicate or control most of the commonly encountered endoparasites.
If you are as concerned about parasites as we are, please ask your veterinarian to formulate a specific parasite control strategy to keep your pet, and your family, healthy and parasite free. Worms and ticks are tough to talk about, but it is not tough to have an easy plan in place to keep away the “creepy crawlies” and bloodsuckers!
These blog comments, although based in scientific research, reflect our professional opinions only and are accurate and true to the best of our knowledge. They are for informational purposes and do not constitute treatment advice, nor should it take the place of seeking medical attention and a diagnosis from a trained professional. We reserve the right to change these blog comments if/as new research emerges.