Parasites and Pets: Do you need to be worried?
Parasites. No pet owner ever wants to have to deal with them. But did you know nearly a third of all household pets currently have some form of parasite? Yikes! I found this out because I saw one of my cats eating a cricket he had caught and it made me wonder: Do crickets carry parasites that can infect cats? The answer to that question is yes. But is it just crickets that can give my cat a parasite? Sadly, no. Today we’re going to look into the types of parasites your pet can get.
Now, this list isn’t all inclusive. There are many parasites out there but these are some of the more common ones you’ll find in the United States.
Roundworms are by far the most common type of parasitic worm you’ll find in your pets. Nearly all dogs will have roundworm at some point in their lives, usually as puppies.
Hookworms are very similar to roundworms in that they are also an intestinal parasitic worm. These parasites are dangerous because they can cause fatal blood loss.
You’ve heard of this one! Tapeworms are long, flat worms that live in the intestines. There are a variety of species of tapeworm that can infect your dog:
- Dipylidium caninum
- Echinococcus (uncommon in the United States)
Tapeworms usually don’t make your dog sick and do not cause weight loss but it can happen. If you suspect your dog has tapeworm make sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Heartworms are nasty things. Primarily in dogs, heartworm is transmitted via infected mosquitoes. These worms don’t only live in the heart but also the large blood vessels in the lungs. Thankfully monthly preventative chews and other preventative options exist. You can read more about heartworm on our post dedicated to heartworm.
Also called Physaloptera worms, these can infect your pet when they ingest an infected cricket or cockroach. Your pet can also become infected by eating another animal, such as a mouse, that has eaten the infected insect.
Some other types of parasites are:
- Cheyletiellosis (Walking Dandruff – Cats only)
- Ear Mites
- Scabies (Dogs only)
- Tocoplasmosis (Cats only)
Prevention is key. Even indoor animals should be dewormed once a season (every 3 months) unless otherwise instructed by a veterinarian. For some worms, like heartworm, a monthly preventative is recommended for most animals. If you bring a new animal home that has not been dewormed you should schedule a vet appointment ASAP and keep the pet separate from others until they are cleared as some parasites can be transmitted.
Are parasites fatal?
Parasites can be fatal if left untreated. Parasites like fleas can cause severe anemia due to blood loss. You should reach out to your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has a parasite, especially an internal parasite. If you find a stray dog or cat that has a severe case of fleas or mange you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible to minimize blood loss and scarring.
Did you learn something new about parasites and pets? Let us know in the comments.