Nowadays, our pets are treated like family members and we all want them to be happy, healthy, and free of parasites. Not only are they a nuisance, but they can cause serious health issues for your pets and the non-furry members of the household. It is not uncommon for your cat or dog, at some point in time, to have either an internal or external parasite, so let’s further explore some of the common ones.
Some of the more common parasites are hookworm, round worm, whip worm, tapeworm, and Heartworm. Most internal pests effect the intestines and digestive tract, however, others like Heartworm obviously, as the name suggests, affect the heart. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloody stools, weight loss, lack of stamina, shallow breath, reduced appetite, and vomiting. Often worms or remnants of worms can be seen in your pet’s stools. Transmission is through feces of infected animals including the surrounding area or puddles of water. Tapeworm larvae can be found in intermediate hosts such as fleas, and Heartworm is spread through mosquitos. Preventing your pet from eating animals feces or drinking from stagnant pools of water is helpful in preventing transmission.
The more common external parasites that inflict discomfort on our pets are fleas, ticks, ear mites, and mange. Typically a healthy pet with a strong immune system would be less likely to be a target for these pests. Natural deterrents include certain blends of essential oils, inspections and regular grooming. Fleas develop in shady protected areas outdoors and can be transmitted from other animals. Ticks on the other hand enjoy tall grass and wooded areas and are also passed on from host animals. Ear mites are transmitted through social interaction with other infected pets. Most pets have a small population of mites living on them and there isn’t an issue unless the population grows. This growth usually occurs in pets with a weak immune system. Be on the lookout for extreme itching/scratching, chewing at specific parts of the body, hair loss, black specks (dried bits of blood or feces), and often you can see the bugs themselves.
The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true when it comes to parasites. Keep your yard clean of feces, wild animals (if possible), keep the grass short, discourage your pet from eating feces and provide fresh drinking water when out and about. There is ample anecdotal evidence that certain essential oils help deter pests (exercise extreme caution when using essential oils, always dilute them, and beware, many are not safe to use on cats). Plus parasites prefer feeble hosts so keeping your pet healthy with a strong immune system, will make him an undesirable candidate for parasites.