Preventing Parasites In Your Pet
The Companion Animal Parasite Council has developed important guidelines for protecting pets and pet owners from parasitic infections. St. Francis Animal Hospital is committed to providing you with these important guidelines and helping you make choices that will protect your loved ones.
Intestinal parasites: 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. In 2020, researchers examined samples from over 3,000 dogs visiting dog parks across the US. Intestinal parasites were found in samples from 85% of the parks tested, and 1 out of 5 dogs were positive for at least one intestinal parasite. 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: 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.
Fleas and Ticks: External parasites such as fleas and ticks can cause disease in both pets and people. Recent changes in weather patterns have led to a high prevalence of these parasites in Minnesota. Ticks carry the organisms that lead to serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, while flea bites can lead to diseases such as Babesia and Hemobartonella. Protection against these external parasites is essential for your pet’s long term health.
In addition to the health issues for your pet, parasites can pose a risk to humans- especially children and immunocompromised individuals. Roundworms, hookworms, and some tapeworms are considered zoonotic. Zoonotic infections are infections that can spread from animals to humans. Transmission can occur through accidental ingestion of parasite eggs or penetration of the skin by parasitic hookworm larvae. Tick bites can cause serious diseases in people in addition to pets.
Protecting your pet from these parasites will keep your human family safe too.
Protecting Your Pets and Your Family
Puppies and Kittens
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 Frontline Gold or Nexgard, and kittens should receive monthly Revolution Plus. We recommend testing a fecal sample at 8 weeks of age and at least once more sometime in the first year of life.
Dogs should receive Heartgard Plus for prevention of heartworms and intestinal parasites, and Frontline Gold or Nexgard for flea and tick prevention. We recommend year-round use of both of these preventatives. While heartworm transmission in Minnesota stops in the winter, intestinal parasite transmission does not. Ticks are active as soon as temperatures are above freezing, which can happen even in mid-winter. In addition, both fleas and ticks can overwinter indoors, so year-round prevention is important. Dogs should have a heartworm and tick-borne disease test annually, and should have a fecal sample screened for intestinal parasites once to twice yearly.
Cats should receive year-round parasite prevention with Revolution Plus. Cats can be infected with heartworms from mosquito bites, which even indoor cats are susceptible to. Cats who go outdoors can be exposed to fleas, ticks, ear mites, and intestinal parasites such as roundworms or hookworms. Revolution Plus protects against all of these parasites. Cats should have a fecal sample screens for intestinal parasites once to twice yearly.
Most pets do not regularly need to be treated for tapeworms. However, any pets that hunt rodents or rabbits should be on monthly praziquantel to protect against tapeworm infections. Fleas can transmit tapeworms, so dogs and cats diagnosed with fleas should also be dewormed with praziquantel.
Protecting Your Family
- 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 may be 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!
- If your pet is diagnosed with an intestinal parasite, practice good hand hygiene when handling feces and pick up stools immediately to limit contamination of the soil.
- Don’t allow your pet to ingest fecal material from other pets or from wildlife.
Please contact us if you have additional questions or concerns about prevention of parasites in your pet.
Content prepared by St. Francis Animal Hospital, 1227 Larpenteur Ave. West, Roseville MN. 55113