Monsters Inside

The Animal Planet program “Monsters Inside Me” is not a fictitious program. There are many parasites in this country that not only prey upon our canine and feline friends, but also on us humans! A parasite is an organism that relies on a host (human, animal, or even creatures like snails) by invading the host and surviving. The parasite usually does not want to destroy the host, but just live off them. Unfortunately this reeks havoc in the animal host.

The parasites that commonly invade our dogs and cats are intestinal parasites such as the whipworm, roundworm, hookworm; and smaller protozoal parasites such as coccidea and the flagellate giardia, to name a few. Because these parasites want to stay in the animal’s GI tract robbing nutrients, we almost never actually see worms in our pet’s feces. We have to rely on a fecal test to actually detect the microscopic eggs that are being shed by the parasite into the feces. The more common parasites that can infect us humans are the roundworm, hookworm, and giardia.

As veterinarians, we attack these parasites in a number of ways. First of all, since we know that virtually all puppies and kittens in this country harbor intestinal parasites from their mothers, we deworm these babies at least three times, two to three weeks apart, regardless of what the fecal test reports. We encourage a fecal check at the first baby health exam to check for any unusual parasites that our standard dewormer will not get. Then after the deworming series we do a final fecal check.

The second way we prevent infestations is through the pet’s monthly heartworm preventative. Not only do the products prevent heartworms but they also help kill off intestinal parasites.

Speaking of heartworms, the other horrific parasite we encounter (especially in the south) is the dreaded dirofilaria (heartworm). This nasty parasite is transmitted through a mosquito bite and infects the dog by migrating to the heart chamber, growing into a long worm, and lodging itself in the right side of the heart and pulmonary artery. This then leads to heart failure. Thank goodness the dog’s monthly heartworm pill prevents this.

Unfortunately for our feline friends they can also get heartworms. The sad side to this is that there is no treatment for them. The feline is not the primary host for dirofilaria (heartworm) so when they get bit by an infected mosquito the parasite does not develop into a large worm, but invades the poor cat’s lungs. Many times this ends in sudden death. Again, luckily the heartworm preventatives that we have work wonders.

Fleas and ticks of course are not new news! Since their bite affects us humans we all try to prevent this in our pets. There are a plethora of flea and tick medications on the market. My suggestion is to use a product that works and is affordable! Key note – Works! Ask us for a recommendation. I love Frontline Gold and my daughter loves the oral Simparica for fleas and ticks.

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