FAQs | Pets & Parasites: The Pet Owner’s Parasite Resource

frequently asked questions

answers to your questions about parasites to keep you and your pets healthy

q: I have several dogs and cats and want to provide them with the best care, but the cost of flea and tick control products as well as internal parasites and heartworms is more than my budget covers. Are there products that can be used on both dogs and cats? a: Cats and dogs are very different in their ability to handle chemicals. in fact, some chemicals commonly used in dogs are potentially very dangerous in cats. never use dog products on cats,

Q: Can I buy the larger sizes of products and split them between my pets? a: Divided doses are not recommended. While this may seem logical in some cases, the reality is that these products are somewhat dose sensitive based on patient weight.

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Some manufacturers have stated that the distribution of chemicals throughout their product may not be uniform and therefore one pet may get too much and another not enough.

p: We recently brought home a new puppy and when we took him to the vet a few weeks later we found out he had whipworms and hookworms. the pup had pooped in various areas of the yard and I understand that the eggs of these worms are probably in the dirt. Is there any way he can kill these worm eggs? a: Unfortunately, some worm eggs are quite resistant to environmental changes and can persist for long periods in the soil. there are some precautions that can be taken in small areas to destroy the eggs. unfortunately, they damage or destroy grass and landscaping in the immediate area.

In some cases, diluted chlorine bleach can be effective, but it is most effective on concrete covered areas and much less so on the ground. propane fueled torches will work, but have obvious risks of burns and unwanted damage. in small areas, the top few inches of soil can be removed and taken to a landfill. in extreme cases, it may be necessary to cover the area with concrete or asphalt to prevent exposure and reinfection.

To best protect the pup, be sure to administer monthly parasite control products as recommended by your veterinarian.

q: I have a lot of feral cats in my neighborhood and some of them use my yard and flower beds as toilets. I have to worry? What can I do to safely clean these areas without damaging my landscaping? A: In addition to the risk of roundworms and hookworms infesting your garden, cats present an additional potential for transmission of toxoplasmosis. this protozoan infection is of particular concern for pregnant women.

Since treating feral cats is impractical, it’s important to prevent them from fouling your yard by using repellents or motion-sensitive sprinklers. It’s also important to remove fecal matter every day if possible and dispose of it in a landfill. The best step you can take to protect yourself is to wear gloves while gardening and to wash your hands thoroughly after gardening.

q: My family is extremely “green” and we cover everything with mulch. we’ve been adding dog and cat droppings to the mulch, but I understand this may not be a good idea. what are the dangers? a: mulching is a very common way to help protect our environment, but unfortunately the methods and results are somewhat inconsistent. Pinworm eggs passed in your pets’ feces require high temperatures to kill the eggs, and these temperatures can be difficult to achieve in home mulch piles. the risk is that you could inadvertently spread worm eggs around your garden and potentially contaminate vegetables.

While many sewage treatment plants are effective at killing these eggs, not all are. The best and safest way to dispose of dog and cat feces is in the landfill with the garbage.

p: We live in the country in Southern California and we have a lot of wildlife in our area. What should we worry about in terms of our pets getting parasites from these animals? a: Wild animals are indeed a potential health hazard to your pets and your family. Intestinal parasites can be transmitted to pets by eating the eggs or by consuming small rodents. raccoons carry a very serious parasite called balysascaris that can infect dogs but is much more dangerous as it can infect people with life-threatening results.

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In addition, wild animals are frequent hosts of fleas and ticks that can contaminate the environment and infect your pets.

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p: We have opossums and raccoons in our yard. Are they a danger to our pets or our grandchildren? a: the greatest danger is that raccoons deposit their feces in an area where children could inadvertently be exposed.

In some areas of the country, raccoons are a major source of rabies. both possums and raccoons are intriguing to young children. it is important not to encourage them to make their garden their home and to prevent children from coming into contact with them or their droppings.

Q: We just adopted a 5 month old puppy and want to make sure he stays in good health. we tested him for worms and heartworms and both were negative. If we start him on the medications our vet suggested, can we be sure he won’t get heartworms or intestinal worms? a: The most important step you can take to protect your puppy from parasites is to use a monthly product to control internal parasites and an oral or injectable product to prevent heartworm disease. These products should be used throughout the year. Heartworms present a bit of a problem as your pup may have been exposed to heartworms and simply have not matured to a stage where they are detectable. the best precaution is to re-examine your puppy 6 months after the last test. Regardless… stick to your vet’s recommended prevention throughout the year.

Q: I just found out I’m pregnant and my doctor told me I need to get rid of my indoor cats. I am very attached to my cats, but my baby’s health comes first. that I have to do? a: first, don’t get rid of your cat! your doctor is concerned about the spread of toxoplasmosis from your cat. In pregnant women, this normally minor illness can have devastating results on the developing fetus. the good news is that cats mainly get it from eating mice and birds. furthermore, it is only transmissible from cats for a very short time in their lives.

The risk of toxoplasmosis from cats is an outdated concern, but it’s easily avoided if someone else in the family empties the litter box every day. the risk of toxoplasmis is more significant when eating unwashed vegetables and undercooked meat. both should be avoided during pregnancy.

p: I live in a skyscraper in downtown Chicago. I have 2 cats that never go outside. should I worry about worms? A: Because your pets are not outdoors, the chance of exposure is much less than for an outdoor cat. some common pests, such as cockroaches, can transmit some parasites and it is not ruled out that mosquitoes can enter your building. while the risks are low, only you can determine if they are acceptable.

At least have a stool sample tested once a year in both cats so that if there is an infection, it can be treated.

Q: I am very concerned about chemicals in my family. Are there natural organic products that I can use to control fleas and ticks? A: Although there are some natural products that have a slight repellent activity against fleas, none have been shown to be very effective in the long term. Eucalyptus oil, cedarwood chips, and other aromatic oils can act as repellants, but to have any effect they must be used very frequently and must be very fresh. this makes them a bit unpleasant to be around.

Diatomaceous earth and borax powder are very good drying agents and can be useful for controlling fleas in the garden or even on the carpet. they can be a bit tricky but they help.

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Q: My dog ​​recently tested positive for lyme disease. Does that mean I can get it from my dog? a: no. people do not get lyme disease directly from their pets. the disease is caused by bacteria carried by a tick. infection occurs when an infected tick bites a dog (or a person). There are no documented cases of a dog infected with Lyme disease transmitting the disease to a person. If a person and her dog both test positive for Lyme disease, it is likely because they are both exposed to infected ticks in the environment and not because the dog is passing the infection to the person.

Q: Why should I monitor my pet for parasites year-round? a: Due to the high number of internal and external parasites and the high risk of pet infection, year-round parasite control is the most reliable way to ensure the highest level of health for your pet and the welfare of your family. Year-round prevention is the most effective way to control dog and cat parasites and the diseases they can carry.

Q: Why can’t I deworm my pet only during the summer months? a: Parasites can infect your pet at any time of the year. While external parasites such as fleas and ticks may be less of a problem during certain times of the year, depending on where you live, internal parasites (worms) may be present year-round. That’s why it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to implement a year-round parasite control program.

Q: Do fleas on my pet pose a health risk to my family? A: yes. Fleas can carry and transmit several potential diseases to humans, including rickettsiosis (rickettsial infection) and bartonellosis (bartonella infection). In addition, fleas serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms, which can infect both your pet and humans.

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Q: What human health problems are associated with ticks? a: ticks transmit a large number of diseases in north america. These diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and tick paralysis. It’s important for your pet’s health, as well as the safety of your family, to include ticks in your pet’s year-round parasite control program.

Q: What types of internal parasites or worms can infect my cat or dog? a: There are a number of intestinal worms that can infect dogs and cats, and they vary by species. these generally include tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, and are very prolific. in fact, a worm can produce more than 100,000 eggs per day, which are then shed in the pet’s feces and spread throughout the area that the pet roams. once in the environment, these eggs can remain infectious and pose a health risk to your pet and humans for years.

Q: How does my dog ​​or cat get roundworms (tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms)? a: Dogs and cats are most commonly infected when they ingest (eat) roundworm eggs that have passed through the feces of an infected dog or cat. Tapeworms can be transmitted to pets by ingesting fleas or other intermediate hosts, such as small rodents, that carry tapeworm larvae. some species of worms can be transmitted to puppies and kittens through the placenta and mother’s milk.

Q: How can my veterinarian determine if my pet has intestinal parasites (worms)? A: Most intestinal parasites can be diagnosed by physical examination and microscopic analysis of your pet’s feces. Your veterinarian can perform the fecal exam and tests to determine if your pet has worms and then prescribe the appropriate treatment or preventive program.

Q: If my dog ​​or cat has intestinal worms, how do these parasites infect humans? a: Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite in pets and the most likely to be transmitted to humans. Humans can accidentally ingest infectious worm eggs that have been passed through pet feces and left in the environment. the eggs hatch in the human intestinal tract, and the immature worms travel to various body tissues, including the eyes and brain, causing serious infections.

Q: Are heartworms a parasite I should be concerned about for my pet? A: yes. Heartworms can be a very serious problem for both dogs and cats, especially in mosquito-infested areas, as mosquitoes are a vector and intermediate host for the plague. Heartworms can kill or seriously debilitate pets that are infected with them. That’s because heartworms live in the bloodstream, lungs, and hearts of infected pets. Your veterinarian can do a blood test to determine if your pet has heartworm disease. a year-round preventive program is most effective in keeping pets free of heartworms.

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Q: Can the heartworms that infect my dog ​​or cat also infect humans? a: Heartworms will rarely infect humans, as humans are an aberrant host. however, there have been cases of heartworm infection in humans, causing cysts in the lungs or eyes.

Q: How can I reduce the risk of parasites infecting my family? a: You can reduce the risk of parasitic infection by removing parasites from pets; restrict access to contaminated areas, such as litter boxes, pet “walking areas,” and other high-traffic areas, and practice good personal hygiene. Disposing of pet feces regularly can help eliminate potentially infectious worm eggs before they are distributed into the environment and picked up or ingested by pets or humans.

Q: I’m pregnant and my doctor told me to get rid of my cat because it might have toxoplasmosis. what is toxoplasmosis and do i have to get rid of my cat? a: Toxoplasma is a protozoan parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and is commonly found in raw or undercooked lamb or beef. can harm a developing fetus. cats can serve as a terminal host for the parasite when they eat small rodents that carry the protozoa and then excrete the parasite’s infective oocysts in their feces, thus exposing pregnant women to possible infection. If you’re pregnant, you don’t need to get rid of your cat. avoiding raw or undercooked meat, keeping your cat from hunting, and having someone else change the cat’s litter box every day will eliminate the risk of possible infection.

Q: My dog ​​has been diagnosed with lyme disease. how did he get it and can i get the disease from him? a: lyme disease is caused by the organism borrelia which is transmitted by the tiny deer tick, which is very common in many parts of the country. If you or your dog is bitten by a tick that carries this organism, you or your dog can get Lyme disease. however, your dog cannot transmit the disease to you directly if he is infected. your veterinarian can prescribe a program to treat the disease if it develops.

Q: My dog ​​is running with another dog being treated for mange. what is it and should i be worried? a: There are several different types of mange, with the two most common types being sarcoptic mange or mange and demodectic mange. both are caused by tiny parasitic mites that burrow into the skin, leading to skin irritation, hair loss, and crusting or crusting.

Sarcoptic mange is not seasonal and can infect dogs of any age or breed. demodectic mange is a complex issue that involves a large number of mites (demodex canis) in the hair follicles. the infestation may be localized to the head or other part of the dog or generalized to a larger area. sarcoptic mange is easily spread from one dog to another by direct contact; therefore, all dogs and other pets should be treated. Humans can also be infested with this parasite and should also take precautions. current data indicates that demodectic mange is not contagious.

q: My cat’s ears are swollen and he shakes his head frequently and scratches his ears. do you have ear mites? A: Quite possibly, but your vet can provide a definitive diagnosis. Ear mites are common in cats and spread easily between animals, so it’s important to treat all exposed pets. Ear mites can cause serious discomfort to your pet and lead to secondary ear infections if not treated immediately.

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