Parasites are pests — such as worms, fleas, ticks, and microscopic critters — that can live inside or outside of your pet’s body.
And unfortunately, there are a few parasites that affect humans, too!
Here in North Carolina, some parasites flourish year-round… so, parasite prevention and control is a very important part of keeping your pet healthy and happy!
Here are the most common parasites we treat and prevent at Lineberger Veterinary Hospital…
Fleas are a big problem here in Gastonia, especially in the warmer months, and in certain conditions can even survive through our winters.
Here are some reasons why fleas are a danger to pets and humans:
- Flea bites are extremely itchy and cause a lot of discomfort for your pet.
- It’s even worse if your pet is allergic to flea saliva. Because then, each bite triggers a lot of inflammation, and causes your pet to scratch and scratch… leading to wounds and infections of the skin.
- Fleas are carriers of tapeworms and other infectious diseases that affect pets — and, some of these diseases are a danger to humans, too.
- If severe, fleas can cause anemia, since they feed on blood.
- Female fleas lay up to 50 eggs per day, making it difficult (and expensive!) to get rid of them once they’re in the house.
For all of these reasons, you’ll want to be sure that ALL of your pets are on a very good flea prevention, year-round, even if they’re indoor.
Remember, it’s better to prevent a problem in the first place, rather than having to treat it later! Be sure to ask us about the safe and effective products we recommend to protect your dog or cat.
In addition to painful bites that can become swollen, ticks carry a variety of serious diseases, such as Lyme, Ehrlichia, and more.
Since ticks are common in our part of the country, here at Lineberger Veterinary Hospital, we offer tests for these diseases, as well as safe and effective tick prevention.
These worms can infect your dog or cat’s heart, cause damage… and even be fatal.
Treatment in dogs is expensive, and carries risks… and, there’s no treatment available for cats… so, prevention is very important.
Heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites… and, due to the prevalence of the disease in Gastonia, NC, pets are at risk year-round.*
But don’t worry! We have several safe, effective products that can protect your furry best friend.
(*Note: To keep your pal safe, we recommend testing for heartworm disease — which is done via a simple blood test — at regular intervals, even if your pet is on prevention. Ask us more about how testing and prevention work together to protect all pets from this serious disease.)
This category of parasites includes worms — such as hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and others — as well as microscopic parasites like Giardia.
These parasites can lead to:
- Weight loss
- Anemia, malnutrition, and other health problems
- In puppies and kittens, worms can cause stunted growth, or even death in severe cases
Note: Some of these parasites can also affect humans (especially children). Certain worms can even migrate out of the intestines and into other parts of the body, like the eyes. While rare, this can lead to blindness or other severe health problems.
So, it’s very important to make sure your pet receives prevention. Your veterinarian at Lineberger Veterinary Hospital will also let you know how often to bring in a stool sample for a fecal exam (a test of your pet’s stool that looks for parasites and parasite eggs).
These microscopic parasites can make your pet very itchy, and lead to bacterial or yeast infections of the skin.
Some types are contagious to humans… while others are not.
While these mites aren’t nearly as common as fleas — we definitely do see them from time to time. So, if your pet has a skin infection, we’ll probably do a routine check for mites, just to be sure they aren’t the cause.
Fortunately, these microscopic parasites can’t use human beings as a host… but, they are very contagious between pets, especially cats.
If you notice your pet shaking their head or scratching their ears a lot — especially if their ears are dirty (with dirt that looks like coffee grounds) or red and irritated — ear mites may be the cause.
A simple test, looking at an ear swab under a microscope, can help to determine if ear mites are there.
How to avoid parasites…
We know all of this sounds scary… and, probably kind of gross, too.
But don’t worry — we have a lot of safe and effective products to help your pet avoid parasites and stay healthy.
Here are some steps you can take to help keep your furry family member parasite-free… and keep parasites out of the home, too:
- Bring your dog or cat for their routine wellness exam as recommended, usually every 6-12 months. This will help to detect any problems early on.
- Follow your vet’s recommendation for wellness tests, such as a fecal exam, heartworm test, or tests for diseases carried by ticks.
- Talk to your vet about your pet’s lifestyle, including time outdoors and travel, so they can help you determine risks and create an effective parasite prevention plan.
- Give all parasite preventions as recommended.
- Practice good hygiene at home. Teach children to wash their hands often, especially before eating.
- Try to prevent your pet from eating stool from other pets or wildlife (this is a common way for parasites to spread).
- Clean up your pet’s stool right away. Picking up your pet’s poop from the yard, litter box, or potty pad — and disposing of it right away — will help to decrease the risk of parasites spreading, should your pet ever be exposed to them.