How to Prevent and Treat 5 Common Parasites in Dogs and Cats

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Intestinal Worms
What Are They?
Hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms are all microscopic parasites that infect pets' digestive systems. Minor infections may not cause any symptoms, while more serious worm loads can lead to diarrhea, blood in stool, weight loss, and in serious cases, anemia.

Prevention
For all intestinal parasites, avoiding other infected animals is significant. Hygiene in yards and indoors can prevent the spread between pets or reinfection in a pet after treatment. Tapeworms can be spread by fleas, so routine flea prevention is important. Some preventative treatments for heartworms, commonly given too many pets, are also effective against roundworms.
Treatment
After being treated with a dewormer, your dog or cat may need a follow-up treatment to kill any larvae that survived the first round. Some intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans, so caution and proper hygiene are essential.

Fleas & Ticks
What Are They?
Fleas are small, highly transferrable insects that feed on the blood of dogs or cats. They can transmit disease, cause discomfort, and trigger allergies. Ticks are arachnids that also feed on blood, but they are less mobile, latch on for longer, and become inflamed with blood. Ticks transmit a number of serious diseases.
Prevention
Fleas and ticks are often controlled with the same treatment, either in the form of drops applied to pets' fur on a consistent schedule, or special collars worn all the time. Both forms of prevention are intended to prevent the pests and kill any that do end up on a pet. Pet owners should also avoid tick-friendly environments (brushy, wooded areas during warm months) and promptly deal with any fleas in the home.

Treatments
For fleas, which can infest your home as well as your pet, begin treatment in consultation with your vet as soon as you notice a problem. This may consist of topical or oral control products, in combination with washing bedding and possibly spraying outdoor areas.
For ticks, carefully remove any you find on your pet (taking exceptional care not to leave the tick's head in your pet's skin), and ask your vet if they want to test the tick. If not, they may want to test your pet for tick-borne illnesses, depending on your location, or simply wait and see. Consider where your pet may have picked up the tick(s) and avoid that outdoor area if possible.

Heartworms
What Are They?
Heartworms are a serious parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. Cats are less likely to be infected than dogs, but more likely to die from an infection.
Prevention
Heartworm prevention is important, as it's much easier to prevent infection than to treat it. Most heartworm preventatives are monthly doses, usually in the form of a chewable treat. The dose is based on your pet's weight.
Treatment
Heartworm treatment is difficult and not always successful. Melarsomine is the current treatment drug, usually given over numerous doses. Pets going through treatment must be restricted from activity as their bodies process the heavy load of dead worms.

Toxoplasmosis
What Is It?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microscopic parasite. While dogs and other animals can be infected with this parasite, only cats can host the full life cycle and infect other animals.
Prevention
For outdoor pets, prevention is problematic because they can be infected by eating smaller animals that are already infected. If you have an indoor-only cat, avoid feeding them raw or undercooked meat and there's very little chance they will encounter the toxoplasma parasite.
Treatment

Treatment consists of an antibiotic, sometimes combined with additional medication to treat related inflammation.

Ear Mites
What Are They?
Ear mites are tiny mites that infect pets' ears, where they breed and cause discomfort.
Prevention
These mites can be difficult to prevent, especially for outdoor pets, but checking and cleaning your pets' ears frequently can help.

Treatment
Treatment for ear mites involves thoroughly cleaning the ear and applying a topical medication. Follow up treatments are often done at home to make sure the mites are eradicated.

 

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