Warmer weather leads to concerns over parasites and pets

By Dr. Marie North

Carberry Vet Clinic

With the arrival of warmer weather, not only do we turn our attentions to outdoor activities, but so do our 4-legged friends.  While fun and games preside, there are a few precautions you should be taking for your pets, particularly when it comes to parasites.

Ticks are usually located in grassy areas.  Some tick species can transmit one or several diseases to your pet such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis and Erhlichiosis.  In general, a tick needs to take a blood meal and remain attached for 48 hrs in order for the disease to be transmitted.  Most tick preventive products are absorbed into the animals’ system so that when the tick feeds, it ingests the product and dies prior to transmitting the disease.  Unfortunately, that means that the tick still needs to take a blood meal.  Certain products also have a repellant factor which can decrease the number of ticks on your pet.  

While many of these products work well they are not 100 per cent effective.  Consider this, if a dog walks through a tick nest there may be upwards of 3,000 ticks in that one region alone. Even with a product that is 98 per cent efficacious that still leaves about 60 ticks you may find.  The nymph stage, which is about the size of the tip of your pen, is also responsible for disease transmission. These are obviously much more difficult to see when checking your pet.  

While Lyme disease can affect people, you cannot acquire it from your pet.  What it does mean if your pet has Lyme disease however, is that you are in an at risk region and should take appropriate precautions yourself.  

There is a Lyme vaccine for dogs, but as aforementioned, ticks can transmit several diseases.  As such, general tick prevention is important.  In general, cats are usually free of ticks given their grooming tendencies.  Most tick products are also toxic to cats.  If you are interested in tick prevention for your cat, contact your local veterinarian for recommendations.

The environment also serves as a reservoir for a variety of roundworms.  Anywhere an animal can walk, sniff and defecate is an opportunity to contract or shed roundworm parasites. These organisms are microscopic therefor impossible to avoid.  Many people think their animals are parasite free because they do not “look like they have worms”. In order for an animal to appear unthrifty and do poorly as a result of parasites, the burden has to be marked.  All too often I see healthy appearing puppies and kittens coughing up worms, or adult animals passing worms in their stool as a result of infection.  We cannot prevent our pets from acquiring parasites. The goal is instead to minimize their burden, transmission and shedding of parasites into the environment through monthly deworming.  Certain roundworms can also be transmitted to people resulting in some terrible infections.  

In particular, the young who play in the dirt and the immunocompromised are at risk.  

Tapeworms are generally a problem we see in cats who are hunting. They look like tiny rice segments, and may be dried up and attached to the hair at the back of their legs.  Dogs that are susceptible to tapeworms are those living on the farm with access to carrion and other animal parts.  Tapeworms are also associated with fleas.  So it is always a good idea to deworm dogs who have evidence of fleas. 

Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes.  An infected mosquito transmits the disease when they take a blood meal.  That parasite then invades the blood system and develops into an adult worm which resides in the heart.  Heartworm is a terrible disease which can result in the death of an animal, and is very difficult and expensive to treat.  As such, routine prevention is recommended and more economical.  

With climate change, we are seeing an increase in the number of diseases that may affect our pets largely due to the migration of parasites further west and north.  There are several products available to combat either one or all of these diseases thus protecting you, your pet and your family.  I encourage you to contact your local veterinarian for recommendations.  Many over the counter products are incorrectly applied, potentially toxic to other animals, and therefore not as efficacious.  Parasite control is a routine standard of care recommended by all veterinarians.  For detailed information on parasite control the following websites are helpful: www.dogsandticks.com and the Companion Animal Parasite Council at www.capcvet.org


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Submitted Article

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Submitted Article

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The Neepawa Banner

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