Parasites

By Arbutus West, on Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Parasites, parasites, parasites!   Can any other health topic elicit such a visceral reaction?  A shiver down the spine?  A look of disgust?

No one likes creepy crawlies, but because of their close relationship to the environment, our pets a probably the only way that parasites will enter our lives.   Luckily they rarely pose a significant health risk except to very young or immunocompromised individuals and are relatively easy to prevent and manage.  Parasites fall into two families:  external parasites and internal parasites.

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External parasites are insects and arachnids, so fleas, lice, mites and ticks.   They can live in the hair/fur, skin, ears and hair follicles.  Typically signs of infestation include itchiness, red skin and hair loss, although some pets aren’t very sensitive to parasites, especially fleas, and will be perfectly comfortable while the owner notices fleas crawling through their fur.   Ticks are the exception since they don’t usually cause local symptoms and have to be found by vigilant owners.  Unfortunately of all the external parasites, ticks carry the greatest health risk as they can transmit diseases like Lyme disease.  It is always a good idea to check your pet for ticks regularly in the summer (also known as petting) especially if you’ve been out hiking in an area where there parasites are known to be in numbers.

Parasites – prevention is important

Prevention of external parasites is very easy, and we recommend prevention as the strategy of choice.  Once you have an infestation in your home it can take up to 6 months to clear, so prevention of these parasites really is better than waiting for an infestation to develop and then having to flea-bomb your house!  Revolution is a spot-on product that is effective at protecting your pet against all external parasites, is fantastically safe, has no effect at all on humans, and is very easy to apply.   Just squeeze a drop onto the back of your pet’s neck and for 30 days you don’t have to worry about external parasites!    Ticks can still attach, but they die within a few hours of feeding, so are less likely to transmit diseases.

Internal parasites are worms and protozoa (like giardia).   They can cause severe disease in puppies and kittens, or diarrhea in adults when present in heavy numbers.   Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) a healthy adult can carry a heavy burden and not show any clinical signs, but still be shedding and contaminating the environment.  There are many strategies for dealing with them, which we will discuss in our next post.


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