With warmer weather lots of things come to life, or become more active, including parasites that affect our pets. Parasites exist in many varieties including internal parasites such as various intestinal worms and heartworms, and external parasites such as fleas and ticks. Most of these parasites are microscopic, so not visible to us owners. Even the visible creepy-crawlies such as fleas and ticks can be difficult to find in a really furry dog.
Parasites cause health issues and spread disease to our pets. Ticks carry many bacterial infections that cause life-threatening diseases. Fleas carry and spread Plague as well as other life-threatening illnesses. Even if a patient is not flea infested they can have allergies to just a single flea bite causing itch and discomfort. Intestinal parasites can cause GI upset and in younger patients very serious illness. Not to mention that some of these parasites aren’t specific to which species they affect, and some can be transmitted to humans, especially children.
The lifecycles of the parasites are all different but our pets can acquire intestinal worms and heartworms even walking through the grass on a quick trip outside to potty. Tapeworms (a type of intestinal worm) are common in dogs or cats that eat other critters such as rabbits, mice and birds. Speaking from recent experience even young puppies will find things outside that we would prefer they didn’t. Pets are typically exposed to fleas and ticks in areas of thicker trees or brush or where higher populations of wild life exist (deer, prairie dogs, squirrels). This can include many locations we take our dogs to burn some energy, such as a hike on the mountain, trip to Morad Park or Alcova, or just letting them run through an undeveloped field in town.
At Altitude Veterinary Hospital we recommend all dogs receive a monthly intestinal parasite prevention that also covers heartworm, and those who frequent areas where fleas/ticks exist receive a flea and tick prevention monthly during April-October. All cats who go outside receive monthly intestinal parasite prevention as well as flea/tick prevention (indoor only cats once per year for intestinal parasites). We base our parasite prevention recommendations for pets off the recommendations provided by the following animal health organizations.
Companion Animal Parasite Council – petsandparasites.org
American Animal Hospital Association—aaha.org See AAHA Guidelines for Pet Owners-Preventive Healthcare guidelines
Please ask us any questions pertaining to parasite prevention or other health related aspects for your pets.