The Companion Animal Parasite Council has developed important guidelines for protecting pets and pet owners from parasitic infections. St. Francis Animal & Bird Hospital is committed to providing you with these important guidelines and helping you make choices that will protect your loved ones.
Roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are intestinal parasites found in both dogs and cats. A nationwide study revealed that more than 1 out of 3 untreated dogs were infected by at least one of these intestinal parasites. While pets infected with intestinal parasites may exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, blood loss, and even death, many infected pets show no clinical signs of illness, yet can be shedding up to 200,000 parasite eggs in the feces every day!
Heartworms live in the heart and lungs of infected dogs and cats and are transmitted by mosquitoes. Clinical signs of heartworm disease may include coughing, lethargy, and difficulty breathing, while some animals show no clinical signs at all. Left untreated, heartworm disease may be fatal to your pet.
In addition to the health issues for your pet, intestinal parasites can pose a risk to humans, especially children and immunocompromised individuals. Roundworms, hookworms, and some tapeworms are considered zoonotic. Zoonotic infections are infections in people caused by parasites normally seen in animals. Transmission can occur through accidental ingestion of parasite eggs or by penetration of the skin by parasitic hookworm larvae. Protecting your pet from these parasites will keep your family protected too.
- Puppies and kittens should be dewormed at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age. At 8 weeks of age, puppies should begin receiving monthly Heartgard Plus and kittens should receive monthly Revolution. If you choose not to begin monthly preventative, deworming should be continued monthly until your pet is 6 months old.
- While experts agree that heartworm transmission in Minnesota is not year round, intestinal parasite transmission can be. Pets should receive year round preventative – Heartgard Plus for dogs and Revolution for cats. Individual recommendations should be tailored to your pet.
- All dogs and puppies should be on monthly Frontline Plus to control flea and tick infestations. Monthly Revolution will protect your cats and kittens from fleas.
- Since some tapeworms and fleas share a life cycle, dogs and cats diagnosed with fleas should also be dewormed with praziquantel. Any pets that hunt rodents or rabbits should be on monthly praziquantel to protect against tapeworm infections.
- A fecal examination should be performed at least 1-2 times per year.
- Dogs should have a heartworm test annually.
In addition to these recommendations, follow these important steps to reduce the risk of infection in humans:
- Remove pet feces from the yard or litter box daily. Wash hands carefully after handling feces or cat litter.
- Do not allow children to go barefoot or sit in playgrounds or beaches where they are exposed to pet feces.
- Children’s sandboxes should be covered when not in use.
- Control intermediate hosts such as fleas, rodents, and rabbits. Keep raccoons out of your yard.