How to Protect Your Pet From Parasitic Diseases

Pets commonly suffer with parasitic diseases, which, left untreated, can cause problems ranging from simple irritation to serious, often life-threatening, health conditions. Our Madison Street Animal Hospital team has the information you need, including the signs, treatment, and—most importantly—prevention, to protect your pet from common parasitic diseases.

Pets and roundworms

Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasites found in dogs and cats. Roundworms do the most harm to puppies and kittens, because they absorb nutrients from the intestinal tract that are important for growth.

  • Transmission — Roundworms can be transmitted when:
    • Infected pets shed microscopic roundworm eggs in their feces, which other pets contact. 
    • Pets eat animals such as rodents, earthworms, cockroaches, and birds carrying roundworm eggs. 
    • Roundworm larvae travel through the placenta from a pregnant pet to her unborn offspring.
    • Roundworm larvae are passed to offspring through milk in the mother’s mammary glands.
  • Signs — Healthy, adult pets may not show infection signs, but pets with serious infections—especially puppies—may have signs that include:
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Weight loss
    • Dull hair
    • Potbellied appearance
    • Coughing 
    • Visible worms in feces or vomit
  • Prevention — To prevent transmission, remove fecal matter from your pet’s environment, ensure they do not eat wild animals that may be carrying roundworms, and administer a monthly parasite preventive. 
  • Treatment — Many safe, effective deworming medications are available to treat roundworm infections.

Pets and hookworms

Hookworms are named for their hook-like mouthparts that they use to anchor themselves to the pet’s intestinal wall lining. The hookworm feeds on blood and lays eggs in the digestive tract, and can cause intestinal inflammation and anemia—a life-threatening condition that can result from too few red blood cells. 

  • Transmission — Common hookworm transmission methods include:
    • Through the placenta to unborn offspring
    • Offspring drinking milk from their infected mother
    • Ingesting larvae in the environment (e.g., feces)
    • Larvae penetrating the skin
  • Signs — Pets infected with hookworms may show these signs:
    • Pale gums
    • Poor hair coat
    • Weight loss, or failure to gain weight
    • Dehydration
    • Dark, tar-like diarrhea
  • Prevention — Use the same prevention methods for roundworms.
  • Treatment — Deworming medication can be used to kill the parasites. Some pets may need further treatment, such as a blood transfusion, depending on the severity of anemia.

Pets and heartworm disease

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by heartworms that infect a pet’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels, leading to severe respiratory problems, heart failure, and damage to vital body organs.

  • Transmission — Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes that transmit heartworm larvae into the pet’s bloodstream through their bite.
  • SignsHeartworm signs can look different in dogs and cats.
    • Most dogs show no signs in the initial stages, but as the condition progresses, signs can include persistent coughing, lethargy, and weight loss. If the worms cause a heart or vessel blockage, the dog may die suddenly.
    • Heartworm signs in cats sometimes include wheezing, panting, and difficulty breathing, but the first sign in cats is often sudden death.
  • Prevention — Heartworms can easily be prevented in dogs and cats by administering year-round heartworm prevention medications.
  • Treatment — Treatment for infected dogs is painful and expensive. Dogs must first be stabilized before they receive a series of painful injections, and also must be exercise-restricted for several months, since activity can exacerbate the damage the dead worms can cause. No treatment is available for heartworm disease in cats. Clearly, the best treatment is prevention.

Tick-borne diseases in pets

Ticks are found all over the United States and can transmit many diseases, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, to people and pets. 

  • Transmission — Ticks attach themselves to a host, feed on their blood, and transmit diseases directly into the host’s system. Tick-borne diseases are not spread between pets and humans directly, and a direct bite is required to transmit disease.
  • Signs — Each tick-borne disease is different, but the illness signs are similar, including:
    • Lameness
    • Lethargy
    • Fever
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Abnormal bruising and bleeding
  • Prevention — Prevention includes checking your pet thoroughly and removing ticks after being outside, and administering a year-round tick preventive.
  • Treatment — Infected pets are typically treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Recurring tick-borne conditions can be difficult to eradicate, and regular blood work may be recommended to help detect and treat recurrences early. 

Vigilance and regular parasite prevention measures can greatly reduce your pet’s chances of parasitic disease. Contact our Madison Street Animal Hospital team and make an appointment to have your pet tested for parasites. Our team can help you choose the best parasite preventive to protect your pet.

By |2022-12-21T22:30:26+00:00December 9th, 2022|News|0 Comments

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