Parasites and Prevention

As the weather begins to become nicer, it is a great opportunity to go out and enjoy the day with your pet. However, as the flowers bloom, pesky pests are also bound to emerge, and it is important to take your pet’s health into account when spending time outdoors. While fleas and ticks are the most well-known outdoor pests, there are others that you should be aware of and we are here to help keep your pets healthy and safe.

Common External Parasites

There are many types of parasites that can affect your pet and the side effects of these parasites will depend on the type of parasite and location of the parasite.

  • Ear Mites– Ear mites are a type of mite that makes their home within the ear canal of animals. These mites are too small to be easily found by the naked eye. Common signs of ear mites can include intense itching, excessive scratching of ears, shaking of the head, and small bumps on and within the ear. They may also cause scaly patches to occur and ear infections. Treatment typically involves a thorough ear cleaning and prescription medication.
  • Fleas– Fleas are wingless insects that can jump a great distance. They survive by sucking on the blood of your pet but may also bite humans. You may notice your pet excessively scratching, biting at themselves, reddened skin, hair loss, and flea droppings on your pet’s coat. The scratching may lead to open sores and infections. Some fleas may also carry tapeworms and infect your pet. Fleas are also known to carry blood-borne diseases such as variations of typhus and cat-scratch disease. Treatment requires medication for your pet as well as thorough deep cleaning of the environment including vacuuming the carpets and furniture to remove the flea infestation from both your pet and home.
  • Mange– Mange is a type of another type of mite that burrows into your pet’s skin causing your pet to scratch excessively. Common mange types include Sarcoptic mange (scabies) or Demodex mange. The excessive scratching causes the skin to become dry and scaly leading to hair loss and thick hardened crusty patches. The scratching may lead to open sores and infection. These patches are typically found on the face, ears, and abdomen, but can spread to other areas. It can be contagious to both other animals and humans and should be treated promptly. Treatment involves medication to eradicate the infestation, treat any infections, and soothe the skin. We also recommend cleaning your pet’s environment thoroughly to ensure no mites remain.
  • Mosquitoes– These insects are common pests for humans and pets alike. For our pets, they can result in more than a persistent itchy bite. Mosquitos are capable of carrying and spreading plenty of diseases to both humans and pets. For your pets, the most common disease transferred by mosquitoes is heartworm disease. If your pet is scratching excessively, it could be due to a mosquito bite. If you suspect your pet may be infected with heartworms, common symptoms may include coughing, fatigue, difficulty breathing, weight loss, collapse, and a bulging chest. Treatment can be difficult for a mosquito bite. However, many preventative medications are available that repel mosquitos and prevent heartworm disease.
  • Ticks– Ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, brush, and spaces with vast undergrowth. Any animals, including humans, that enter these environments are at risk of being bitten by a tick. These parasites are capable of spreading various infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ticks like to burrow on your pet’s neck area and folds between toes but can be found on other areas of the body as well. If you discover ticks on your pet, removal is important to prevent the transfer of diseases. If you are uncomfortable with removing the tick yourself, we recommend partnering with your veterinarian and discussing further prevention.

Intestinal Parasites

Along with these external parasites, there are many intestinal parasites that can cause significant health problems. Intestinal parasites live inside the host animal’s gastrointestinal tract. Examples include roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and protozoa.

There are many different ways that animals can contract intestinal parasites. They are often transmitted when an animal ingests parasitic eggs in different situations. Some of these threats include contaminated soil, water, feces or food. In the case of tapeworms, they can also be transmitted if an animal ingests an infected flea. Puppies and kittens can also get them from their parents through utero or nursing.

Intestinal parasites can cause many different issues such as malnutrition, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and anemia. Besides making our pets sick, many of these parasites can affect people in ways you wouldn’t foresee happening. Nearly 20% of dogs pass toxocara eggs in their stool, which can cause damage to the eyes and if left untreated can lead to vision loss, especially in children.

Identifying Parasites and Preventative Care

While external parasites are easier to spot, intestinal parasites are rarely seen because they live inside your pet’s intestinal tract. Tapeworms are one exception, as they shed segments that resemble sesame seeds or grains of rice and are typically seen in your pet’s stool or around his or her rectum. Roundworms are another exception since they may occasionally be seen in your pet’s vomit or stool. If you see any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately so they can diagnose any issues.

It is important to make sure your pet is up to date with flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medicine. These medications should be taken monthly and will help to keep your pet from these parasites and the diseases they may carry. Other great preventative methods include checking your pet regularly for any fleas or ticks that they might have encountered from playing outside, and regularly having fecal testing performed to rule out intestinal parasites. An occasional bath with flea shampoo can also offer an added layer of protection from external parasites. For more information on the treatment and prevention of these pests or to schedule an appointment, contact North Hampton Animal Hospital today.


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