Dr. Naomi Nagayama and Belinda Gonzalez: Keeping an Eye on Parasites
Flea infestations are the most common parasite problems of dogs and cats. Fleas are just about everywhere!
Scratching or excessive licking may be the first sign that your pet has a problem with fleas. This scratching can lead to hair loss and skin infections. Look for irritated areas on your pet's back, abdomen, neck, rump (especially the tail base) and on the inside of the thighs.
It is now known that the adult flea species that attacks dogs and cats spends its entire adult life on your pet. Once the adult flea begins to feed on your pet, it must have almost constant excess to the blood of your pet for it to survive. Adult fleas cannot live off your pet more than three or four days without a blood meal.
Egg production begins within 48 hours of the first blood meal, reaches a peak of 40 - 50 eggs per day and can last more than 100 days. Female fleas can produce more than 2,000 eggs during their life. This is equivalent to producing their body weight in eggs every day of their life. While only a fraction of these eggs will eventually develop to adults in the natural environment, this high rate of reproduction ensures that there will always be fleas.
Roundworms - Roundworms, also known as ascarids, are the most common type of intestinal parasite infecting dogs. In fact, many puppies and kittens are born already infected.
Your pet can become infected with roundworms by nursing from an infected mother or even while still in the womb. Dogs and cats can also become infected by eating other animals, especially rodents that are carrying developing worms.
Hookworms - Hookworms affect both cats and dogs, although they are more common in dogs. Hookworms are dangerous for three reasons; they suck blood, potentially leading to anemia; they can infect unborn animals in the womb; and they can be passed on to humans. The best way to avoid infection is to keep living areas clean of waste material.
Whipworms - Whipworms are intestinal parasites that infect dogs only, cats are not at risk. Whipworms, which get their name from the whip-like shape of adult worms, live in the colon or large intestine of dogs. They bite the tissue and embed their heads, which allows them to suck blood and irritate the intestine walls.
To prevent potential exposure to whipworms, any feces in your yard should be picked up daily.
Heartworm preventives prevent all three of these parasites.
Heartworm - First, adult female heartworms release their young, called microfilariae, into an animal's bloodstream. Then, mosquitoes become infected with microfilariae while taking blood from the infected animal. During the next 10 to 14 days, the microfilariae mature to the infective larval stage within the mosquito. After that, the mosquito bites another dog, cat or other susceptible animal, and the infective larvae enter through the bite wound. It then takes a little more than six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms.
In dogs, the worms may live for up to 7 years. Microfilariae cannot mature into adult heartworms without first passing through a mosquito.
Protect your pet from dangerous parasites! Ask your veterinarian today about preventatives, such as Trifexis, Heartgard or Advantage Multi. For more information on each of these products, visit Irving Pet Hospital's blog at www.irvingpethospital.com/blog.
Dr. Naomi Nagayama and Belinda Gonzalez work at the Irving Pet Hospital.