More and more, pets are becoming an important part of the family circle. Part of ensuring that this special human-animal bond continues to grow is practicing an effective parasite prevention program – especially since some infections that occur in dogs and cats can, unfortunately, be passed to humans.
External parasites include fleas, ticks, mites and mosquitoes. Parasites like these can be carriers for disease.
Not only can fleas cause your pet to feel uncomfortable from scratching, but in higher quantities, can cause anemia, especially in puppies and kittens. Fleas can also be carriers for tapeworms, a type of internal parasite.
Ticks are most commonly known for being responsible for transmitting Lyme disease. They can also carry Anaplasmosis and Erlichiosis.
Heartworm is carried by mosquitoes. This disease primarily affects dogs but cats are becoming increasingly affected. Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms that live in the heart, and blood vessels that supply blood to the lungs of infected animals.
As part of routine wellness exams, an annual test is recommended to check for heartworm, as well as the 3 tick-borne diseases mentioned above for our canine companions. For our feline friends, a combo test is available for heartworm, as well as Feline Leukemia and FIV (also known as Feline AIDS).
To learn more about lyme, anaplasmosis, erlichiosis and heartworm disease in dogs, go here.
Pets can come into contact with internal parasites from a variety of sources. Some of these sources include contact with contaminated soil, food or water, mosquitoes, fleas, birds, and rodents. Puppies and kittens often contract internal parasites from their mother either during gestation, or after birth.
It is very common for our household pets to become infected with parasites at some point in their life. The symptoms can range from no visibly apparent infection at all to severe life-threatening illness, depending on the type of parasite and the overall health of the pet. Roundworms, Whipworms, Hookworms, and Coccidia are the most common parasites seen in cats and dogs. An annual fecal exam is recommended to detect these parasites. Many of these parasites can survive our harsh climate, which makes year-round transmission a possibility. For this reason, we recommend monthly parasite prevention, even in the winter months. Need help remembering to give your pet his parasite prevention medication? Just visit this website.
Although not as common, but still prevalent, Giardia can be contracted through contaminated water sources. Giardia can be difficult to detect on routine fecal exams. A specific test is available to detect Giardia, should your veterinarian be concerned about exposure.
Many parasites are zoonotic agents.
What is zoonosis?
Zoonosis is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from pets to people, and vice versa. Regular veterinary visits, preventative vaccinations and medications, and good hygiene can go a long way in helping to prevent disease!
Some of the common parasites that animals, especially kittens and puppies, and humans become infected with include hookworm infections, roundworm infections, whipworm infections and tapeworm infections.
For more information on common zoonosis, clinical symptoms, how they are transmitted and how to treat and prevent disease schedule an appointment to talk with your veterinarian. You can also visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council to learn more!
Heartworm is a parasite that is passed from animal to animal by mosquitoes. All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito to pass on the parasite’s larva to your pet. Heartworm is much more prevalent in dogs than in cats. A study on “Heartworm in dogs in Canada in 2010”,, published by the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph has revealed a 60 per cent increase in the number of dogs in Ontario with heartworm since the last study of its kind was conducted in 2002.
The Canada-wide study showed that 564 dogs tested positive for heartworm in Canada in 2010; 431 of those dogs were located in Ontario (that’s over 75 per cent of the total). Also of concern is that eighty per cent of animals that were found to have heartworm had not been on a heartworm preventive medication. In a few cases, pets that had been receiving heartworm preventive medication also tested positive for the disease; the most common reason for this was that the pet owners indicated they had forgotten to give their pet the preventive medication at the prescribed intervals.
It is important to test your dog on an annual basis, even if he or she is on monthly year-round prevention. At our hospital, testing requires a small blood sample and, in addition to screening for heartworm, we also test for 3 tick-borne diseases (Lyme, Erlichia, and Anaplasma). This test is done in-hospital and results are available within 24 hours.
To see what heartworm looks like in an infected animal, visit: Heartworm Disease in Dog Surgical Removal (not for the faint of heart!)