Summertime is here, and while for most of us, that means beach days, hot dogs on the grill, and lounging by the pool – for our pets, these hot months can be full of dangers.
According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, many pets will be affected by parasites at some point in their lives. These tiny organisms can cause severe illness and carry diseases in our four-legged friends if not handled right away.
Parasites take many forms, but whatever form they assume, they will eventually have a negative impact on your pet’s health and comfort. Parasites can cause anything from mild irritation to significant health problems.
As a pet owner, it’s essential to educate yourself about common pet parasites and learn how to prevent and treat each of these dangerous pests to protect your family friend.
Types of parasites.
There are two types of parasites that pet parents should be aware of: internal and external parasites.
Internal parasites, often in the form of worms, can be transferred in various ways but live inside the body and can affect several of their organs. Some of the examples of internal parasites include the following:
External parasites, such as fleas and ticks, land on or crawl up your pet’s body and feed off their blood. These types of pests include:
- Ear mites
Symptoms of parasite infestation.
Symptoms of a parasitic infection in dogs will depend on the type of parasite. Pet parents must work with their vet to practice year-round parasite prevention and conduct regular external checks.
Be sure to get your dog into a veterinarian right away if they show any of the following symptoms:
- Low energy
- Change in appetite
- Weight loss
- Dull appearance of the coat
- Hair loss
- Skin irritation or scabs
- Visible worms in feces
- Head shaking
Parasites present in cats in a variety of ways. Some cats display lots of visible symptoms, while some don’t show any signs at all. Evaluation of parasite infection is one of the most important reasons for a qualified veterinarian to see your cat at least once a year.
A few of the most common signs your cat might have an infection or infestation include:
- Bloody stool/diarrhea
- Unexplained weight loss (especially if hunger level is the same)
- Bloated or rounded belly
- Constant coughing
- Difficulty breathing
- Visible worms in feces
- Constant scratching
- Shaking head
- Dark brown or reddish debris in ears
- Hair loss
- Red bumps on the skin
How to protect your family.
Our pets are essential members of our families, which means we have constant close contact with them. They play with us, exercise with us, ride in the car with us, sleep with us, some even eat with us! Therefore, it is imperative that we keep them healthy and free of parasites, not only for their benefit but to protect ourselves as well.
Practicing good hygiene is the key to preventing infection. Protective steps include promptly removing animal feces from your yard, covering children’s sandboxes when not in use, wearing shoes outside, wearing gloves while gardening, and washing hands thoroughly after working or playing outside. If you suspect anyone in your family has been infected, it is crucial to consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.
How to prevent parasites in pets.
Some of the most important things we can do to protect our pets and family members are monthly preventatives and annual testing.
There are effective treatment options for your pet if they become infested, some are simple and others more complicated. But with the wide availability of remarkably effective preventive medications, you can help ensure that your best friend is not plagued with annoying and potentially dangerous pests. For internal and external parasite preventives, ask your vet for recommendations for your pet’s needs.
It’s also a good idea to watch for changes in your pet. If he or she is behaving differently, or there are changes in appetite or water consumption, these may alert you to a potential problem. Be sure to examine carefully while brushing and petting for any skin or coat changes.
Maintain a clean environment for your pet. Ensure bedding, food, litter boxes and water dishes, coats, ears and teeth cleaned regularly. Keep them away from garbage, dead animals, and other dogs or cats who may be infected.