I recently moved to the Houston area from Minnesota. While I am enjoying the warm climate, I have also had the opportunity to see a great many more parasites than I am used to seeing in my patients. From fleas and ticks, to all manner of worms, we have ‘em all in this region!
Some common parasites are a real nuisance, while others can present our pets and even family members with significant health risks. For example, roundworms and hookworms are some of the more common parasites we see in dogs and cats. While they can cause chronic gastrointestinal disturbances and even life threatening anemia in our pets, they can cause serious multi-organ damage to us. Those especially susceptible are the very young, elderly, and immune suppressed.
It’s not just worms that can ruin your day. Since moving to Texas, I have never seen so fleas in all my life! Yes, they cause your pets to itch, and you might find itchy sores on your ankles, but fleas are more than just a nuisance. They can also present significant health risks to you and your pets. Not only are they a common cause of tapeworms in pour pets, but they can also carry diseases like Plaque and Typhus making you very ill.
Fortunately, most of the parasites that are pets can contract are easily prevented or eliminated. First, it is important to have your pets examined by a licensed veterinarian at least once per year. Your pet will be examined for any clinical signs that may raise suspicion of parasites. Some signs that may be evident are unexpected changes in body weight or body condition. Pale mucous membranes, distension of the abdomen and thickened intestines may raise suspicion for a wide range of intestinal worms. Abnormal heart and/or lung sounds may indicate heartworm disease or some intestinal parasites. Changes to the skin or coat may raise suspicion for external parasites such as fleas, mange mites, or even fungal or bacterial infections. Your veterinarian can diagnose and make recommendations for treating and preventing these nasty little bugs.
Finally, your veterinarian can provide you with medications that will safely prevent future infestations. Using an approved heartworm preventative will not only prevent serious heart disease but will also generally prevent a wide range of internal parasites. There are several options for flea and tick prevention as well. There are even some products that do it all in one easy to administer medication. Given the wide range of products with differing coverage, it is always best to discuss with your veterinarian which product or products are the best fit for your pet and lifestyle.
Help your best friend live a long and healthy life. Talk to your veterinarian about parasites and how to protect your pets.
Dr. Matt Duff
Cross Creek Veterinary Hospital