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Parasite Information

March 1, 2021 Internal Parasites

Internal Parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and heartworms can live inside your pet, rob your animal of vital nutrients, and cause organ disease. This may lead to abnormal symptoms, poor appetite, decreased energy, failure to thrive, serious anemia, organ failure, and even death. Puppies and kittens are especially susceptible to parasite infestation; however, this can be controlled, treated, and prevented. A fecal analysis or blood test may help diagnosis a parasite problem. Some parasites are transmissible to humans, especially children. Your veterinarian can discuss an appropriate, strategic internal parasite prevention program to protect the entire family.

Heartworm begins when an infected dog, carrying tiny immature heartworms (microfilariae) circulating in its blood, is bitten by a mosquito. The mosquito takes in microfilariae (larvae) when it feeds. During the next two-three weeks, the larvae develop within the mosquito into the infective stage. When the mosquito feeds again, it can transmit infective larvae to the healthy dog. The larvae penetrate the dog's skin and migrate through the tissues and develop over the next few months, eventually reaching the dog's heart.
Once in the dog's heart, the worms can grow to as long as 14 inches and cause significant damage to the heart, lungs and other vital organs. If left untreated, heartworm disease can result in death. The only way to know if your dog has heartworm disease is to have your veterinarian examine and test your dog. The procedure is quick and easy. Once it is determined that your dog is free of heartworms, a preventative program will be recommended based on your pets age, lifestyle and frequency of testing.

External Parasites

External parasites include those pesky fleas, ticks, lice, or mites, among others. Some can be rather obvious, while others need a microscope for diagnosis.

Fleas are acrobatic pests that jump onto dogs, cats, and even humans. The development of the flea from egg to adult ranges from 14 to 140 days; our cooler Vermont weather extends the life cycle. If you see fleas on your pet, please consult with your veterinarian.There are many flea treatments and preventatives available; they range in effectiveness and some can be lethal. Before beginning any treatment, you should call your veterinarian's office and if it is okay to use, you should take care to follow the instructions exactly. Environmental treatment is an essential part of flea control. Regular, thorough vacuuming and frequent laundering helps to remove eggs, larvae, and pupae from the surroundings. If left untreated, fleas can cause severe skin infections, anemia, tapeworms, and uncomfortable stress.

Ticks, including the tick that transmits Lyme Disease, populate Vermont heavily. Ticks will attach to your pet for days, yet they can be difficult to see at first due to their small size. Ticks can transmit several different diseases. Check your pet daily for ticks or use a tick preventative that your veterinarian recommends. There are many tick treatments and preventatives available; they range in effectiveness and some can be lethal. Before beginning any treatment, you should call your veterinarian's office and if it is okay to use, you should take care to follow the instructions exactly. If you find a tick, consult with your veterinarian for removal, or remove it yourself correctly. It is important not to leave any part of the tick behind, especially the mouthparts. To remove a tick, use a special tick remover device or small tweezers; firmly grip the tick's mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pull it out straight. You can clean the skin with hydrogen peroxide. Immerse the tick in alcohol to kill it. Save the tick in the alcohol and mark the date you removed it in the event clinical signs of disease occur and identification of the tick becomes necessary. If you notice fever, lameness, lethargy, or anything else unusual or abnormal, please make an appointment with your veterinarian. At Milton Veterinary Hospital, we offer Lyme Disease and Ehrlichia testing with the Heartworm test so we can screen your dog for these serious diseases transmitted by ticks.

Lice are species specific, which means they will not live on any type of animal, including humans, other than the species of animal they are currently residing. There are two kinds of lice: bloodsucking lice and chewing lice. With some practice, you can usually see lice with visual inspection. Lice are well-adapted parasites that are usually more of a nuisance than a threat to their hosts; it takes a large population of lice to drain the vitality of the animal they parasitize. If you examine your pet's hair coat frequently, you should be able to identify a concern and see your veterinarian for treatment before a major problem develops.

Mites are microscopic creatures that live deep within the animal's skin and ears. You cannot see most mites with the naked eye, but they can cause many irritating problems, including mange and ear infections. The most common presentation of an animal infected with mites is intense itchiness. You may also see hair loss, ear debris or discharge, and red, inflamed skin. Humans and other animals may pick up some types of mites; however, there are also mites that are not contagious. These non-contagious mites may indicate an underlying immune problem with your pet. Your veterinarian will need to identify and treat mite infestations.