Dunedin, Florida is home to an array of parasites such as fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and intestinal parasites. In turn, this presents an array of health concerns for your pet, ranging from general discomfort to serious disease. In every single case we’ve seen, preventing parasites is simpler than treatment.
The medical team at the Animal Hospital of Dunedin takes a two-step approach to parasite prevention.
Continuous, year-round preventative medications benefit your pet’s health and comfort, prevent the spread of parasites to other pets in the community, and safeguard your family from zoonotic infections too. It’s a win-win for all parties.
All pets are at risk of parasites without proper prevention, which is why it’s paramount that you maintain a steady parasite regimen year round. Our medical team will recommend preventative products that are effective for your pet and convenient for you. Preventative products come in the form of a pill, treat, or collar.
Parasite testing is recommended yearly, even if your pet appears to be parasite-free. Certain parasites are easy to spot, such as ticks on the skin. However, intestinal parasites are not as easily detected. To test for internal and external parasites, we will need to take a blood sample, and we ask that you drop off a fresh stool sample at your pet’s routine physical examinations.
Fleas take up residence in the fur of your pet, and move quickly through the coat causing dermatitis, bacterial infections, allergies, and hair loss. In some cases, fleas can also spread other harmful parasites, such as tapeworms. Flea populations sky rocket in the warmer months, but they are present in the environment year-round.
Even if your pet is infested with fleas, they may not be easy to spot. To check for fleas, groom your pet regularly and look for black specks that look like dirt in the fur. You may also notice your pet scratching and chewing at their coat and skin.
The biggest pain point with fleas is how quickly they reproduce. So much so that female fleas can lay as many as 50 eggs in one day. This makes it tricky to not only control fleas on your pet, but also your home, human family members, and other pets.
Ticks bite the skin and consume the host’s blood until they are gorged or purposefully removed. The longer the tick is attached to the skin, the higher risk for dangerous maladies such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis – to name a few. In rare cases, ticks have been known to cause anemia and tick paralysis.
Preventing your pet’s exposure to ticks is cumbersome. Pets that spend time outside are most at risk, but ticks can easily enter the home and affect indoor pets too. The most surefire way to protect your pet against ticks is to remain current on the recommended tick preventatives and to check the skin and coat during daily grooming.
A tick’s favorite place to be is grassy and wooded areas, as well as humid climates. Be sure to thoroughly check your pet’s skin and coat after spending time outdoors, especially in these areas, to prevent ticks from entering your home and being transmitted to other pets and people.
Mosquitoes bite the skin, which can cause skin irritation and an even bigger consequence – heartworm disease. Dogs are natural hosts of heartworm disease, but it is possible for cats to be infected.
Mosquitoes pass heartworm larvae to the animals they bite. If unprotected, the larvae will grow to up to a foot in length, and invade the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Over time, heartworms cause serious and irreversible damage to the pet’s bodily systems. Treatment is long and painful for your pet and costly for you. Without prompt treatment, heartworm disease is fatal.
For many pets, signs of heartworm disease are virtually unnoticeable until the disease has progressed to advanced stages. Observable signs can easily be confused with other conditions, including coughing, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and lethargy.
Prevention of heartworm disease is as simple and straightforward as year-round preventative medications. In addition to preventative medications, pet-safe mosquito repellents are available to minimize bites. Never use human mosquito repellants on your pet.
Intestinal Parasites hide out in a pet’s intestinal tract and feed on their nutrients. This taking of nutrients can cause serious health consequences for the infected pet, as well as their human family members*.
The most common intestinal parasites are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, giardia, and coccidia. Because intestinal parasites are internal, they can be found in the feces, vomit, or around the rectum of the infected pet. Signs of an intestinal parasite infection include vomiting, diarrhea (bloody in some cases), weight loss, dry hair, and a general poor appearance.
It’s easy for pets to pick up intestinal parasites in the environment, such as coming in contact with contaminated soil or the stool of other pets. However, prevention is simple with monthly preventative medications and annual fecal exams.
Puppies and kittens have the highest risk of infection due to their immature immune systems. Begin proper intestinal parasite prevention during your pet’s first year of life, or as soon as you welcome your new pet into your home.
*Intestinal parasites can be passed from pets to people, and infection can range from mild skin irritation to serious illness. To keep your human family safe, wash your hands frequently after handling pets, wear gloves when picking up pet waste, and dispose of pet waste right away.