Pets, Parasites, and Your Health

Today, our pets live closer to us than ever before and our relationship with them has evolved to a greater intimacy. This brings new issues to the forefront of veterinary medicine and we must be more particular than ever to ensure the safety of our families and pets.

Pets can pick up parasites in different ways: from feces on the ground, while developing in utero, or through their mother’s milk. Just like wild animals, your pets have the innate ability to hide sickness until they become extremely ill and, even though infected with parasites, may not show any clinical signs. Therefore, by the time these clinical signs are apparent, your pet is often very ill and has been shedding parasites for a long time.

Parasites can be transmitted to humans in many different ways, too. When people become infected with parasites, this is called a zoonotic infection and can lead to some very serious conditions. In people, these infections are usually the result of contact with areas contaminated by animal fecal matter. Children tend to be more susceptible to infection because they are more likely to run around bare-footed and are less likely to worry about good hygiene.

Because people are not the normal hosts, these parasites become confused when entering the body. This results in migration to abnormal areas through a process called “Visceral Larval Migrans.” Some of the places parasites may migrate include the eyes and other organs, where they may cause serious or even permanent damage.

What should we do as a family to protect our pets and ourselves?

Don’t panic—simply follow these effective measures for prevention of parasite infestations in young pets:

  • Prior to the first veterinary checkup at 6-8 weeks of age, de-worm puppies and kittens at 2-3 weeks of age, and then every 3 weeks.
  • Ask your veterinarian to do a fecal analysis on any new pet and de-worm regularly.
  • De-worm all pets annually, or more often if environmental factors indicate need.
  • Use good hygiene, such as washing hands after playing with pets or coming in from outside, and wearing shoes outdoors.
  • Teach children to follow good hygiene rules at an early age.

Young pets are more susceptible to parasites and have not developed some of the natural resistance of older animals. Still, our older pets also need to be de-wormed on a regular schedule to prevent problems from occurring.

This issue can be controlled with just a little precaution, allowing people and pets to continue their close relationship. And remember—this relationship can be extended for a long time with the help of your veterinarian. For more information, please contact us at Sullivan Veterinary Clinic.

The Centers for Disease Control has a terrific website with easy-to-read information about protecting yourself and your family from parasites in animals.

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“Dr. Chris has been there for my animals in the middle of the night on more than one occasion!!! What a great community we live in!”~ submitted by Sullivan client Kim Shipman