Pet Parasites and How You Can Help Prevent Them

A yellow lab in the background, with a tick on a hand in front

Ticks, fleas, and worms, along with other parasites, can overwhelm your pet and make them sick. Luckily for your furry loved ones, they live with you, which means you can help them avoid these external parasites. We’re here to help you learn everything you can do to help prevent parasites in and on your pets. 

What Are Parasites and How Did They Find My Pets?

Parasites are any creature that feeds off of another to stay alive. Not just insects and worms, plants can be parasitic, like some types of mushrooms. Parasites that live off your household pets feed off their blood and skin cells, but that’s not the worst of it. A well-fed parasite will grow and multiply. 

  • Parasites can be picked up from contaminated soil and transmitted through the bloodstream by an infected mosquito or flea. Other opportunities to acquire parasites abound in our homes, yards, and on walks.
  • Raw meat—If you feed your animals raw meat by hand or they get their lips on it somehow, they could unknowingly ingest parasites. 
  • Licking or sniffing infected droppings from other animals—On walks, we think it’s funny when our dogs sniff what other animals left behind. But, unfortunately, that refuse could be loaded with parasites. 
  • Roaming cats—Feral and roaming house cats come into contact with all kinds of parasites. If they share a home with other animals, everybody (even family members) may become infected.
  • Mother’s milk—If your puppy’s mom had parasites when she was feeding the litter, your pup has them, too. 
  • Bites and burrowing—Sometimes, parasites jump on or bite your pet and deposit eggs. Then, when your animal grooms its fur, the eggs can be ingested.

What Types of Parasites Could Infect My Pet and What Damage Can They Do?

Worms and their eggs and biting insects are the cause of most parasitic pet troubles. Worms find housing in your pet’s vital organs and intestines, where they feed, grow, and multiply. If not treated, your pet could become extremely sick or even die. Some parasites that can infect your pets are: 

  • Heartworms—Dogs offer the perfect conditions for heartworms to thrive. Heartworm larva is deposited through mosquito bites. When fully grown, the heartworms invade vital organs, the lungs, and the heart. As a result, they can asphyxiate your beloved animal.
  • Hookworms & Whipworms—Lodged in the intestines, hookworms feed on blood and can kill your pet if not treated. Whipworms irritate the intestines and colon, causing bloody, watery stools and weight loss.
  • Roundworms—They live in your pet’s intestinal tract, absorbing vital nutrients your pet needs to survive. 
  • Fleas—Their bites irritate the skin, and they deposit eggs on your pet’s fur. The eggs hatch, and before you know it, you have a flea infestation in your house!

Wellness Checks Are Your First Line of Defense Against Parasites

Bring your pets in for regular wellness checks. We’ll test for parasites and recommend appropriate parasite prevention products that you can use at home. 

At Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital, our veterinarians are highly knowledgeable about pet parasites and other potential health risks to your pets. We’re here to help you keep your pets happy and well for their lifetimes. Call us at 570-424-6773 with any questions or to schedule a wellness visit.