Parasite FYI

Since this is spring and with spring showers come fleas, ticks, and more time spent outside, it is time to discuss the “dangers” of enjoying outside.

By dangers, I mean having our furry friends (and ourselves) exposed to ticks, fleas and internal parasites. There is a lot of press about fleas and ticks, so let’s discuss internal parasites.

Whipworms: Whipworms are intestinal parasites that are about 1/4-inch (6 mm) long. They live in the cecum and colon (large intestine) of dogs, where they cause severe irritation to the lining of those organs. Whipworm infection results in watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and general debilitation.

Hookworms: A dog with this parasite often looks unhealthy and has a poor appetite; the linings of its nostrils, lips, and ears can be pale. If hookworm larvae get into the lungs, the dog may cough, as well as present several other symptoms, including dark and tarry stool, diarrhea, or constipation.

Roundworms: Many dogs do not have signs of infection; however, dogs with significant roundworm infections, especially puppies, show diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, dull hair, and a potbellied appearance. The dog may cough if the roundworms move into the lungs. You may notice the adult roundworms in your dog’s feces or vomit.

Tapeworms: There are different kinds of tapeworms, but the most common one is caused by swallowing a tiny infected flea. Fleas can carry the tapeworm’s larvae or babies. If your dog ingests it (maybe while grooming himself), an adult tapeworm can grow inside your dog’s intestines.

Heartworm: Heartworm or dirofilariasis is a severe and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis and transmitted by mosquitoes. Adult heartworms are found in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels of infected dogs. One dog may have as many as 300 worms present when diagnosed. There are very few cases here in Nova Scotia, but even having one case left untreated can cause the disease to spread.

Luckily, there are very effective products available to prevent and treat infections of all the above parasites. As for our feline friends, the information above is the same, and treatment and prevention are just as easy.

It is a changing world out there, and there are many varieties of parasite treatments. The best information is from your veterinary team who have excellent product knowledge and can determine what is best for Fluffy, Rover (and you), given their lifestyles.

Written by Connie Boudreau, VA

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