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Parasite Screening and & Prevention

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Dogs and cats are likely to become infected with parasites at some point in their lives. If left undetected and untreated, they will affect a pet’s well-being – from simply being irritating to causing a variety of life-threatening conditions. Some parasites can even infect and transmit the disease to humans, with children being an especially vulnerable target! Parasites don’t discriminate; both indoor and outdoor pets are at risk.

When it comes to parasitic illness, it’s always better to prevent than to treat. That’s why Boone Animal Hospital recommends annual testing for intestinal parasites as well as heartworm and tick-borne diseases.

Intestinal Parasite Testing (IPT)

A common mistake is for a client to think that if their pet has normal feces and if no worms are seen, then there are no parasites; however microscopic analysis of your pet’s feces is necessary for an accurate determination. It is for this reason that we ask for a stool sample at your pet’s annual (or semi-annual) visit. Early detection of parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and giardia is vital to successful treatment. Some of the symptoms of parasitic illness include diarrhea, decreased appetite, poor hair coat, vomiting and weight loss or “pot belly”. The presence of these symptoms is neither a confirmation nor indication of a parasitic infection. The only way diagnosis can be made is through IPT, and at that point, an appropriate treatment or preventive program can be prescribed.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (www.capcvet.org) recommends the following IPT schedule:

  • Puppies and Kittens: 2-4 times/year
  • Adult Dogs and Cats (Not Taking Broad Spectrum Heartworm Preventative Medication): 2-4 times/year
  • Adult Dogs and Cats (Taking Broad Spectrum Heartworm Preventative Medication): 1-2 times/year

Heartworm & Tick-Borne Disease Testing

Dogs (and cats) of any age or breed are susceptible to heartworm infection. Heartworm disease is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito infected with a parasite (Dirofilaria immtis.) If untreated, heartworms can cause serious heart and lung disease that can lead to death. Improvements in client education have increased client awareness of heartworm and its risks, yet infection rates have remained steady. Clearly, more needs to be done to ensure client compliance for heartworm testing.

Ticks have been around since the time mammals appeared on the earth. However, in the past ten years, the tick population has exploded to significant levels. With this comes increased the risk of contact with the literally thousands of tick species in existence today. Our exposure to ticks is greater than ever before not just because there are more of them, but also due to other environmental and cultural factors, including a rise in the deer population (white-tailed deer in particular); warmer winters; decreased use of insecticides; increased travel throughout the country; and suburbanization, or the migration of people into areas previously inhabited by wildlife.

Most people know that ticks transmit Lyme disease, a chronic and debilitating illness, but they also carry bacteria that lead to other acute illnesses, such as anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. Some ticks carry more than one of these diseases, which can lead to co-infection. These diseases vary in severity depending on patient age and overall health, and all are zoonotic, meaning they can infect humans and other non-canine family members.

The presence of one or more of these illnesses can be determined by a simple blood test, and we recommend all pets have this test performed on an annual basis. Any detected problems can receive an immediate intervention.