Pets are not just animals, they are companions who are an important part of our families. We want to keep our pets as healthy as possible, just like any other family member.
However, there are medical conditions that affect your pets and can also have harmful effects on you and your family. In order to keep your entire family in the best health possible, it is important to protect yourselves and your pets from certain illnesses. This month we’ll be discussing some of the common parasites that can affect your pets, including fleas, ticks, and worms—and important steps to help keep you, your family, and your pets healthy.
Fleas and ticks are among the most common parasites that can live on the outer surface of your pets. Fleas are very tiny, which makes it difficult to notice them on your pets. Some signs to look for include pets constantly biting and licking their fur, patches of hair loss, or red and irritated skin. Ticks are another common insect that can live on the outside of your pets. Ticks are different from fleas in that they attach to your pets and feed on their blood. They can also cause irritation of the skin. In addition to skin irritation, fleas and ticks carry diseases that can be passed to you and your pets. Fleas can carry a disease known as “cat scratch fever,” which causes an internal infection in cats. Once your cat is infected, it can pass this disease to you through licking an open wound, biting, or scratching. A common disease carried by ticks is Lyme disease. Although pets can’t transmit Lyme infections to humans, a tick carrying Lyme disease can transfer to the pet’s human companion and cause the disease.
There are several preventive steps that can help avoid these parasites. First, there are products that help protect your pets from becoming infected with fleas and ticks. Talk to your veterinarian about which product is best for your pet. Since ticks are most active during these summer months, it’s best to avoid areas where ticks live, including wooded areas with long grass and bushes. If you’re going to be outdoors, make sure to check yourself and your pet for ticks afterwards and protect yourself with tick repellents that contain 20-30% DEET. In addition, it’s recommended to wear long pants and tuck your pants inside your socks.
Parasites can also cause internal infections in pets. Worms are the most common internal parasites, and include roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Once a worm is living inside your pet it can produce more than 100,000 eggs per day. Worms are very serious and can cause serious illness or death in pets if they are not treated. These eggs are passed into the environment in your pet’s feces, and humans can become exposed to them when cleaning up pet waste or during other outdoor activities.
Finally, one of the most important prevention strategies is to have your pets tested and, if necessary, treated with medications recommended by your veterinarian. Just as it is important for you to visit your physician, your pets should also have yearly check-ups to avoid illness from these parasites.
For more information, please visit http://www.petsandparasites.org/resources/pets-parasites-and-people and http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html.
Written by Colleen Quartararo, Pharm D Candidate 2017, CapitalCare Medical Group