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A parasite is an organism that derives nourishment by feeding on or within another animal. All parasites of concern can result in damage to a pet's health. Some can be transferred from your pet to other animals and even to you! No dog or cat that is parasitized is considered healthy. Luckily, all parasites are preventable and/or treatable.


If you've put off buying heartworm preventative for your pet, you may want to think again! These tasty chews given monthly can save your pet's life.

A parasitic worm, Dirofilaria immitis, is responsible for heartworm disease. If an infected mosquito bites your pet, it can transfer larvae to the animal's tissues. The larvae will develop inside the animal and migrate through the body, eventually reaching the animal's heart and lungs. Once inside the animal's heart, the worms may grow to 7" - 11" long and cause significant damage to the heart and lungs.

If left untreated, heartworm disease may result in death. Signs of heartworm disease include: coughing, sluggishness, weight loss, and difficulty breathing.

A simple blood test can diagnose heartworm. Heartworm disease can be treated, but treatment is expensive and can be dangerous.

It's best to use a preventative, such as HeartGard Plus or Interceptor. These items are only available from your vet.


Fleas & Ticks

These pests not only irritate you and your pet, but can transmit and cause several serious ailments. For many pet owners, flea and tick preventative is a necessity.

Fleas can cause the following problems: severe itching; anemia; rickettsiosis (which can spread to humans); bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic plague; tapeworm (which can spread to humans); and Cat Scratch Disease (which can spread to humans). Warning signs that your pet has fleas: black specks in the fur or in bedding areas (flea dander/droppings), excessive scratching.

Ticks can cause the following problems: Lyme Disease (which can spread to humans), Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Cytauxzoonosis. Warning signs that your pet may have been bitten by a tick: fever, lameness, loss of appetite, sudden onset of pain in your pet's legs or body, arthritis or swelling in your pet's joints, lethargy or depression, and cough.

Both fleas and ticks can be treated and prevented by using Advantage , Frontline , Revolution, or K9 Advantix for the best results. Flea collars and dips are only temporary fixes. In addition, a diet consisting of Brewer's yeast and garlic prove to keep fleas away, as well.


Intestinal Worms


Most dogs have roundworms at some time in their life. This worm can be passed to puppies while they are in the uterus and while they are nursing. Eggs that are passed can develop into infective larvae that are capable of directly infecting another dog. The eggs may also infect an intermediate host, such as earthworms, mice, rats and moles and then when this creature is eaten by the dog develop into adult roundworms in the dog. Roundworms have a strange life cycle, migrating out of the intestine and into the lungs before returning to the intestines. Once infected, a dog may pass millions of worm eggs in the stool. The eggs can live for several months in the environment. They are sensitive to ultraviolet light, so pens which are exposed to direct sunlight do not support the life cycle of the worm as well as more protected pens. Roundworm eggs can be killed by using aqueous iodine solution but are not killed by chlorine bleach, although it is supposed to remove the sticky outer coating of the worm, making it easier to cleanse them from infected areas. If your adult dogs are on heartworm prevention medications there is a good chance that they are being dewormed with a medication that can kill roundworms on a monthly basis, which should be sufficient to prevent any real worry over them getting infected, especially since dogs become more resistant to infection with roundworms as they get older. Cleaning up stools daily prevents the spread of the eggs pretty efficiently and is a good practice to prevent infections.


Hookworms are less common than roundworms, but are still a major problem. Hookworms eggs develop into infective larvae which can pass through the skin or be ingested and cause infection. The eggs and infective larvae are susceptible to sunlight and drying. The heartworm prevention medications HeartGard Plus and Interceptor kill hookworms, so dogs on these preventative medications are also being treated for hookworms monthly, which should be sufficient to prevent problems with them, as well. Cleaning up the stools daily also helps to prevent the spread of hookworms.


Whipworms have the most environmentally resistant eggs of all the worms. The eggs of this worm can live for longer than a year in the environment. They are susceptible to drying and sunlight. This worm is killed by milbemycin, the ingredient in Interceptor heartworm prevention but is not killed by the other monthly preventative medications. Therefore, it is more important to monitor fecal samples for evidence of the worm. The time from infection to the appearance of worm eggs in the stool is over two months, though, so it can take awhile to know if this worm will become a problem when there is potential contamination of the soil. Whipworms are harder to kill than roundworms and hookworms. Many vets use fenbendazole (Panacur) for whipworm therapy.


Tapeworms are usually acquired by eating infected fleas or small rodents. Good flea control eliminates most problems with tapeworms except in dogs who are allowed to run free or to hunt small animals at times.


Ear Mites

Ear mites are very common, but still serious. Left untreated, they severely damage the ear canals and eardrum and can cause permanent hearing loss.

Mites can invade the ear canals of cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets, etc. Contrary to popular belief is the fact that ear mites can also live anywhere on an animal's body. Pets with ear mites will scratch about the ears and/or shake their heads. With more advanced infestation, the ear canals will bleed and either fresh or dried blood will appear inside the canal. If you see a buildup of material that resembles coffee grounds in your pet's ears, then it pet probably has ear mites. Ear mites are easily spread to other pets. Humans are not affected. You can temporarily treat the ear mites by soaking a cotton ball with mineral oil and swabbing the ear canal. Then, seek the assistance of your veterinarian for treatment with Ivermectin.

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