Parasite medication

Internal and skin surface parasites are common in our pets today and require ongoing treatment and vigilance. Diseases associated with parasites vary from mild irritation to potentially life threatening conditions. Furthermore, some of our pets’ parasites may affect and cause illness in us and our families.

Worms are parasites that can be found living in different locations inside dogs and cats, and may also pose a risk to humans. Many of our pets become infected by picking up the eggs or larvae (usually not visible to the naked eye) from the soil which commonly occurs when scavenging raw meat, carcasses, hunting or ingesting faecal matter. Both puppies and kittens may also become infected through their mothers. Other worms may involve insects, slugs or snails in their life cycle. Animals which become infected with worms may then shed worm eggs in their faeces, increasing the risk of exposure and infection to other animals and humans.

Other parasites which are often thought to be a more seasonal problem include fleas and ticks. Fleas may be more evident in the warmer summer months, however they can thrive indoors all year round. For some animals fleas are a minor irritation, yet for others it may cause significant allergic disease and skin problems requiring veterinary attention and fleas may also transmit tapeworms to our cats and dogs. If fleas are left to feed off of our pet dogs and cats, their environment can quickly become infested and the fleas may then bite people.
It is extremely important for the safety of our pets, friends, families and neighbours that we use appropriate flea and worm treatment in our cats and dogs. It is also important pet owners clear up dog and cat faeces promptly and dispose of it responsibly, remember to employ good hygiene measures always washing hands after touching pets or cleaning up their faeces, and to respect rules restricting dogs from being brought into school grounds or children’s play areas to prevent contamination of those areas with worms.

A parasitic worm of particular importance to dogs in our area is Angiostrongylus vasorum. This worm has a complicated life cycle involving two hosts. Snails and slugs are the intermediate hosts and become infected by eating larvae in contaminated faeces or soil. The larvae remain dormant until the second host (dog or fox) eats the intermediate host which may happen accidentally when dogs are playing with toys or rooting through undergrowth. The adult worms develop in the lungs or heart of the dog or fox. Infection with lungworm can cause serious illness in dogs, and is often fatal if not diagnosed or treated. Fortunately there are medications that we can use to help prevent this disease.

Further detailed information about many of the parasites that pose a risk to our pets is available on the website of the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites.

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