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home : columns : columns May 29, 2016

4/22/2014 2:10:00 PM
Pets, parasites, and people
Maddie gets year-round treatment for fleas ticks and other parasites.  photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Maddie gets year-round treatment for fleas ticks and other parasites. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

You love spring; it's a time for renewal and the little green buds on the trees outside are beginning to blossom, your daffodils have bloomed and the air is warm. But you noticed that Fido and Kitty don't seem so happy lately. They have started to scratch alot.

April is Parasite Awareness Month: It's important to keep your four-legged friends free of parasites.

What is a parasite? A parasite is a plant or animal that lives on or inside another living organism (called a host). A parasite is dependent on its host and lives at the host's expense.

There are internal parasites such as heartworms, hookworms, tapeworms and roundworms that live inside the body of a host. And there are external parasites such as fleas, ticks, and ear mites that live on the outside of the body of their host.

It is fairly common for a dog or cat to become infected with an internal or external parasite at some point. Parasites can affect your furry friend in a variety of ways, ranging from simple irritation to causing life-threatening conditions if left untreated.

Some parasites can even infect and transmit diseases to you.

A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed directly or indirectly between animals and humans. Zoonotic diseases can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi.

Since humans interact with their furry friends on a daily basis, it's important to be aware of the different ways you can get zoonotic diseases. This can include coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine or feces of an infected pet.

You can reduce the risk of parasite infection to you and your family by eliminating all parasites from your pets and restricting access to contaminated areas, such as sandboxes and high-traffic pet areas.

Remember to dispose of pet feces on a regular basis; it can help remove potentially infectious worm eggs before they become distributed in the environment and are picked up or ingested by pets or humans.

External parasites like fleas and ticks can affect your furry friend year-round, even in Central Oregon. Wildlife, including deer, coyotes, raccoons and skunks, can deposit flea eggs into a yard.

Remember, during the spring and summer months mow your lawn frequently; it reduces flea and tick hangouts. Neatness counts when it comes to eliminating habitats for fleas and ticks to hide and lay eggs. Remove yard debris, such as piles of lumber, bricks, and stones. Pick up discarded pots and other garden items; stack them neatly to limit refuge.

According to Sisters Veterinary Clinic, there are more and more fleas and ticks invading pets year-round. Fleas and ticks can carry, and transmit directly or indirectly, several potential illnesses for humans. Bartonellosis is transmitted between cats by fleas, and then may spread to people. Fleas serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms, which can also infect both you and your pet.

Fleas are small, and just because you don't find one on your pet doesn't mean that they're not there and Fido isn't being bitten. Just a few fleas may not cause him to scratch, but they multiply fast.

Internal parasites like heartworms can be a very serious problem for both dogs and cats, especially those in mosquito-infested areas. Although heartworms are not a high risk in Sisters Country, if you travel with your pet to wetter areas, your furry friend can become infected.

Roundworms are one of the most common parasitic worms found inside cats and dogs. Both hookworms and roundworms can be transmitted to humans and can cause a variety of health problems. It is more likely with children who encounter a contaminated outdoor area.

Good hygiene wards off parasites. Wash your hands frequently and have your children do the same.

Any pet at any age can be infected with parasites, and your veterinarian can help prevent, accurately diagnose and safely treat parasites. It's important to implement a year-round parasite control program for your furry friends. It not only protects them, but it safeguards you and your family, too.

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