Parasites are a perennial nuisance for all pets and their owners. Not only are parasites dirty and bothersome, they can also carry a series of harmful diseases and have a severe and negative impact on a pet’s health.
In order to prevent parasites from infecting your pet, we recommend a three step approach:
- Your pet should be on continuous, uninterrupted preventative medicine for fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal worms. It is not a coincidence that this step is listed first; it is the most effective and simplest method of preventing parasites. Our veterinarians can recommend an option that suits your pet’s needs and your lifestyle. Several preventative products are available for purchase in-house, and even more options are available on our online pharmacy.
- Regular grooming can keep parasites that affect the skin and coat, such as fleas and ticks, at bay. Both professional grooming and at-home grooming can be beneficial. We recommend routine professional grooming, especially for long-haired pets.
- Regular veterinary appointments will allow any parasitic infections to be caught early. Some parasites, such as heartworms, are not externally visible. To catch and treat parasites as early as possible, a veterinarian should regularly examine and test your pet.
A variety of parasites are present in the Minnesotan environment. In the following bulleted list, you can get to know the particular parasites that can put your pets in danger a little better.
- Fleas are small insects that are reddish brown in color. They do not have wings, but they are capable of jumping great distances. Fleas survive by the blood of animals and leave painful, itchy bites. That’s why one of the first signs of a flea infestation is excessive scratching and biting. Although fleas often live on dogs, cats, and other furry mammals, they can also bite people.
- Ticks are technically arachnids, like spiders. Ticks also survive by ingesting the blood of animals, which they receive by biting the victim. Unlike mosquitoes and fleas, tick bites do not last for seconds at a time, but rather days. Many varieties of tick will remain attached to the host animal, drinking their blood, for 2-3 days at a time. Ticks can carry dangerous diseases. For instance, deer ticks (the smallest kind) are infamous for being the harbingers of Lyme disease. Dog ticks (the larger tick variety) spread another dangerous disease called Anaplasmosis. Other diseases spread by ticks include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis – among others.
- Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. When the mosquito bites the animal, it not only causes itchy, uncomfortable bites, but can also introduce heartworm larvae to the body. Without proper heartworm prevention, the heartworm larvae can grow to adult worms that occupy the heart, blood vessels, and lungs. Over time, heartworm infestation causes irreversible damage that is painful to treat and highly fatal. Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, but cats can be infected too. It’s important to understand that heartworm infection shows little to no symptoms until disease progression is severe and and its late stages.
- Intestinal worms include a variety of parasites that live in the digestive systems of their victims, including hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and giardia and coccidia. Many of these parasites can be contracted when a pet plays in or eats dirt. Their eggs enter the body through the mouth and leave the body through the excrement. A serious infection of intestinal worms can be fatal. And as if that was not bad enough, some can be spread to humans.