Fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites can be dangerous for both pets and people. The common dog roundworm is the cause for most concern. Puppies and kittens may be born with intestinal worm infections contracted from their mothers and can easily acquire new infections from soil and other environmental sources.
Because children’s play habits ? in sandboxes, playgrounds, patios, and backyards ? bring them into closer contact than adults with objects that may be contaminated by pet feces, they are more likely to be infected. The larval form of roundworm can migrate through their bodies, damaging the organs. Migration to the eye can even cause blindness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 10,000 cases of toxocariasis (human infection with roundworms) occur every year in the United States. It is therefore very important to have your puppies and kittens wormed. Even if eggs are not found in the puppies’ or kittens’ stool, they may be elsewhere in the body. Most heartworm medications will prevent roundworms. With puppies, however, most veterinarians agree that a routine worming is prudent.
Most intestinal worm infections are treatable; however, prevention is a much better strategy. Clean up properly after your pet, especially around your home and lawn. Use tools and gloves to avoid direct contact with pet waste. Wash your hands after handling your pets or their feces. Limit all contact with unknown animals or environments. Learn to recognize potentially contaminated soil, sand, and other objects. Maintain strict control of your pets when outside, preventing fecal ingestion or contact. And teach children about the dangers of ingesting or coming in contact with feces or potentially contaminated soil.
Although itchy pets are the hallmark of a flea infestation, fleas bring other concerns, as well. Severe flea infestations can cause both young and older pets to become anemic from blood loss. Blood parasites, as well as intestinal parasites such as tapeworms, are commonly spread through fleas. More serious infectious diseases of humans, such as bubonic plague and cat scratch disease, are also connected with fleas.
Ticks in this area spread Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Some forms of Lyme disease can be easily treated with antibiotics, but others invade the kidneys and nervous system and can be fatal. In our hospital, where we test all dogs for Lyme disease each year when we test for heartworms, almost 20 % test positive. Most will not become ill from Lyme disease but some do, and nobody knows why. Ask your veterinarian about safe and proper tick control and Lyme disease vaccination.
Oral and topical monthly preventative medicine, available at your veterinarian’s office, will protect your dog and cat against, fleas, ticks, and heartworms and also treat and control roundworms and hookworms. You and your veterinarian should work as a team to decide what parasite prevention products are best for your pets and your lifestyle.
Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital