Parasite Prevention and Control for Pets

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Steward.

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Parasite infestations are an extremely common part of animal ownership. The term parasite is used to describe an organism that lives either inside or on the skin of another organism. In the case for pets, parasites benefit by taking its nutrients from its host. There are many different types of parasite, and each will affect their host in a slightly different way. Some parasites that affect domestic animals such as cats and dogs can even spread to the humans in your family, putting your health at risk too.

It is possible to protect your pet from parasitic infections, thanks to the wide variety of preventative treatments that are now available from veterinarians and pet stores. However, many owners, particularly those who are new to pet parenting, do not always understand the importance, or do not follow the guidelines to give their animal the best possible protection.

This means that unfortunately, most household pets will develop a parasite infestation at some point during their lifetime. While most are easily treatable, early diagnosis through laboratory tests are essential in minimizing the effects of the infestation and ensure that your pet can make a complete recovery. Left untreated, some parasitic infections can be fatal.

parasite prevention

To help you keep your pet and family safe from the debilitating symptoms and risks associated with parasitic infections, we have put together the following information about parasite prevention and control.

Types of parasites that can affect your pet

Parasites tend to fall into two categories – those which live inside your pet (internal parasites) and those which live on his skin (external parasites).

About internal parasites

The most common types of internal parasite that may affect your pet include:

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Lungworms
  • Heartworms
  • Whipworms

As you can see, worms are by far the most prevalent sort of internal parasite facing pets, although there are a variety of subspecies. The majority of species of worm are spread via contact with the feces of an infected animal, which contains either larvae or eggs. These are then taken into the new host’s body, where the lifecycle of the worm begins again.

Unfortunately, the internal nature of worms means that many owners do not realize that their pet has an infestation until it has become quite prevalent and obvious symptoms make themselves known, such as spotting worms in your pet’s vomit or feces.

About external parasites

The most common types of external parasites that may affect your pet include:

The biggest benefit of external parasites is that they are much easier to spot, making it possible to treat the problem much more quickly. Although any of the above parasites can affect your pet, fleas are by far the most common. These dark, pin-head-sized organisms live buried deep within your pet’s fur, where they gorge on his blood.

The primary symptoms associated with external parasites tend to be skin related, such as itching, swelling and a dry, lackluster coat. However, left untreated the effects of the parasites can cause more serious, internal problems.

Prevention and control for pet parasites

If your pet is diagnosed with a parasite infestation, you will need to get the problem under control as quickly as possible, which will give your furbaby the best chance of making a complete recovery.

In the case of fleas, this will mean treating your property and your pet from it. This is because fleas can live in the carpets, skirting and soft furnishings inside your home for a reasonable length of time – meaning they can potentially re-infect a pet that has previously been treated. When it comes to treating your home, you will need to vacuum everywhere thoroughly, include all your soft furnishings, and seal and dispose the bag immediately to prevent re-contamination. This should happen daily for around a week to ensure that the infestation has been completely eradicated.

In the case of other parasitic infections, there are still things that you can do to minimize the likelihood of your pet becoming infected. This includes picking up any poop that your pet does as quickly as possible, if you have a dog, watching him closely while out to go potty so that he doesn’t come into contact with another animal’s feces or drink standing water, and checking your furbaby carefully for ticks when he comes indoors after being outside.

Parasite preventative medications for pets

There are a huge range of preventative medications that are now available. These range from spot-on treatments to shampoos to tablets. Your veterinarian will be able to make a recommendation as to which preventative treatment is right for your pet. However, it is also essential to understand that each preventative treatment has a lifespan, and it is imperative that you follow the schedule of preventative treatment provided to you by your vet. This will ensure that your pet has persistent and consistent protection.

If you have further questions about parasite prevention and control, call Care Animal Hospital today at 951-676-4690, and we will be happy to advise you further.