What is a Parasite?
A parasite is an organism that feeds on your pet while providing no benefit to him. They steal nutrients from your cat or dog and some can cause irreversible organ damage.
Types of Parasites
There are two main types of parasites: external and internal. External parasites live on the hair and skin of pets and internal parasites live in the body and organs.
Parasites are defined as organisms that live inside or on another organism, called the host, and feed themselves off the host, causing it harm.
Parasite prevention is essential for a healthy pet.
Common External Parasites
Fleas are external parasite that depends upon a host animal for their survival, in this case, your cat. These critters once established on your pet will begin multiplying at an alarming rate. Some estimates calculate that for every adult flea you find on your pet, there can be 100 or more immature fleas hiding throughout their coat.
Not only that but if your pet has fleas, there is a good chance that they are also invading your home, hiding in carpets and soft furnishings.
The itchy bites can lead many pets to scratch and groom themselves excessively until the bites become inflamed, infected, and even more uncomfortable.
Fleas have an added danger in that they can also transmit tapeworms to your pet.
Ticks are external parasites that rely on hosts for transportation and food. Ticks feed on the blood of their hosts, including humans and animals. Wild animals are commonly responsible for bringing ticks into backyards where pets can easily pick them up and then bring them into the house.
Ticks are a danger to people and pets because they spread several serious diseases. The tick's saliva contains germs and bacteria which can be transmitted to people, sometimes leading to conditions such as alpha-gal allergy or Lyme disease.
Ticks are large enough to be noticed when running your hands over your pet. A tick feels like a surface-level bump on its fur. They are usually found on the head, neck, ears, and legs.
Common Internal Parasites
Roundworms are a common parasite in pets. As the name implies, they’re large roundworms that live in the intestines and cause ascariasis. Kittens and puppies generally become infected with roundworms through nursing and can catch this roundworm by eating the larvae found in the feces of infected animals.
Roundworms are a zoonotic parasite, which means humans can become infected with roundworms.
The most common signs of roundworms are:
- weight loss
In pets with few worms present, there may be no signs of infection, but you may notice them in the stool or vomit. Since roundworm infection symptoms may not be visible, it is important to keep up to date on yearly routine visits including stool analysis.
Once diagnosed, treatment is relatively easy, with a few doses of specific dewormers.
These are flat, long, segmented parasites that attach to the walls of the small intestine. Cats and Dogs are most commonly infected by the Dipylidium canine species, but several types are known to infect pets. The way most pets get infected is by swallowing a flea that has been infected with the tapeworm, this generally happens through grooming or as a response to flea bites.
Tapeworm treatment includes deworming medications either in oral or injection form. The best way to prevent tapeworm infection in pets is through flea control treatments.
Heartworms or Dirofilaria immitis, are protozoan parasites that live in the heart and surrounding blood vessels. Cats are generally more resistant to heartworm infection than dogs, however, the infection may still happen. This disease is transmitted by infected mosquito bites, when eggs are injected into the pet; the larvae travel through the bloodstream for several months, finally settling in the heart and pulmonary arteries.
Heartworm infections often do not show any symptoms until later stages when damage to the internal organs is often already started. This is why heartworm prevention and detection at your pet's routine exam is critical.
Many different parasites can infect your pet. The best way to protect your cat or dog is to keep up with their vaccinations and parasite prevention. Your vet will be able to advise you of a schedule for inoculation. Make sure your pet goes for an annual wellness check so your vet can test for infection.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.