Parasites Pose a Real Concern…
Here at the Dog & Cat Clinic of Niagara, we believe in educating you about the importance of parasite control for all dogs and cats—even if they live indoors. It is a common misconception that an indoor cat does not require any deworming for intestinal parasites beyond the kitten years. An equal misunderstanding is the need for external parasite (fleas or ticks) prevention/treatment for our indoor feline friends. Many parasites carry diseases that are contagious or transferable to humans (“zoonosis”).
Pets are most commonly affected by the following parasites:
• Ear mites
It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list! At the Dog & Cat Clinic of Niagara we follow guidelines for parasite control outlined by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (www.catvets.com) in tandem with information from the Companion Animal Parasite Council (www.petsandparasites.org). Watch our Pet Health area on our website for upcoming informative articles on these troublesome creatures.
Below we have given you a sample of information on parasites with emerging/increasing concern.
The most commonly known external parasite is the flea. Fleas can cause an array of problems for pets ranging from minor to life-threatening. Not only can these parasites cause severe itching, irritation, and allergies, but they can also transmit tapeworms and diseases. With the warmer weather and lack of extended cold winters, fleas have become more prevalent in our region. This increase in their outside population has lead to a greater number making their way indoors on ourselves and our belongings. Once in the home, the flea searches quickly for a cat or dog to have a blood meal. This meal enables them to survive and lay eggs. It only takes one flea to start a real problem as they reproduce/multiply rapidly. Of specific concern is a condition called anemia (low red blood cells) because of the amount of blood fleas can consume. As part of your Wellness program, we will educate you about your choices for safe and effective flea prevention that treats all stages of the flea life cycle and, if you should find yourself with a problem already, we can guide you through the steps to a “flea free” home.
Ticks are becoming more and more prevalent in North America, and they are now being found in areas where people and pets did not previously encounter ticks. These parasites are not just a nuisance; they can cause serious—and sometimes deadly—diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and tick paralysis. Contact us immediately if your pet starts coughing or has joint pain, trouble breathing, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite, weight, energy, or coordination as these are the most common symptoms.
Even indoor cats are at risk because ticks can hitch a ride inside on your clothing or shoes. It is important to note that not all tick preventives used for other animals are safe for cats—they may be toxic to cats. We can help you choose tick preventive for your feline family member.
Do not panic if you find a tick on your pet, even if he/she is on a preventive. Some preventives kill ticks after they have come in contact with your pet and obtained a blood meal. Ticks can hide easily under your pet’s fur, so as an added measure of protection, we recommend checking your cat or dog regularly.
Roundworms are the most common of the parasitic worms found inside a cat and dog. Almost all cats and dogs become infected with them at some time in their lives, usually as kittens and puppies. Most pets will never have signs of infection but this parasite does pose a significant risk to humans. As a kitten or puppy, your pet will receive a thorough deworming for this parasite but it may still remain dormant in their tissues. From time to time, the eggs may be passed in the feces and thus pose a contagious risk to people. We will work with you to design a regular deworming program that will promote the health of your pet and minimize your risk of exposure. Additionally, we encourage regular fecal (stool) testing which can identify the presence of an assortment of parasite eggs.
Giardia is a single-celled parasite that lives in the intestines of dogs and cats. It may cause diarrhea but our pets may also be an asymptomatic (show no clinical signs) carrier. Our pets become infected when they swallow water or other substances that have been contaminated by feces. Giardia thrives in stagnant water (puddles and ponds). People can also contract Giardia but it is generally not the same strain and thus it is rare for it to be transferred to you by your cat or dog. Standard treatments for other internal parasites are not effective against Giardia. For this reason, it is important to test your cat’s stool as part of a wellness program. The parasite, if present, may be visible on microscopic examination. In some cases, a special test of the feces may be necessary if Giardia infection is highly suspected but standard microscopic examination of the feces is not revealing. Should this become a health concern for your cat or dog, we will prescribe treatment and guide you through the steps to eliminate this parasite from your pets environment.
Heartworm is an increasing concern in our region. Once thought to be a parasite risk only to dogs, Feline Heartworm is beginning to emerge in Canada. Because the disease is transmitted by infected mosquitos, even indoor cats are at risk. Once infected, the larvae will migrate in the bloodstream to the heart and blood vessels of the lungs. Here, the larvae will mature to an adult worm. Clinical signs in an infected cat can vary from no symptoms to sudden death. Because of the small size of a cat’s heart, it only takes one or two worms to cause significant disease. Unfortunately, there is not a safe or accepted treatment for heartworm in cats. The good news is that this disease is preventable! Please contact our team for more information and to discuss prevention for your dog or cat.
A note on Zoonosis…..
More information about the risk our pets’ can pose to our health visit the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention—Healthy Pets, Healthy People at www.cdc.gov/healthypets/
For more information we encourage you to contact our team of healthcare professionals. We share your concerns as we are pet owners too!