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I’m sure many of you know our pets can carry parasites, but did you know that many of those parasites are transmittable to us? Some of the most common parasites include fleas, ticks, heartworms, roundworms, tapeworms, giardia and coccidia. Luckily, most of these parasites are easily diagnosed and treated, but in some cases it may take a little more time and effort.
I’m sure we are all familiar with what a flea looks like, therefore diagnosis is rather simple. To avoid and help eliminate fleas you can use a topical or oral preventative. Some of the most common are Advantage, Frontline and Sentinel. We don’t recommend using over-the-counter topical preventatives because they can be extremely toxic to our pets and children. Additionally, we don’t recommend flea collars because they are not very effective. When trying to eradicate fleas from the environment keep in mind it can take up to three months.
Ticks are more commonly found in the wilderness and in bushy areas and are a little more difficult to come by. They carry diseases such as Lyme’s Disease, Erlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. They can prevented with topical preventatives such as Frontline. If your pet has a tick, contact your doctor to have it removed. DO NOT apply heat, ointment, etc. as it can cause the tick to excrete more bacteria into your pet’s bloodstream.
Heartworm is acquired by mosquitoes and is not communicable to humans. Diagnosis is fast and simple. We draw a small amount of blood from your pet and do an antigen test which takes about 8 minutes. Once your pet has tested negative we can start him/her on oral prevention such as Heartgard or Interceptor. It is important to do a test prior to starting prevention because if your pet is infected a fatal allergic reaction can occur.
Roundworms are very common in puppies and are communicable to humans. They are acquired by ingesting the feces of infected animals. With puppies, we recommend a routine deworming and a fecal float. A fecal float is a very simple test and is done using a fresh stool sample from your pet. Occasionally these worms are vomited up or passed in the feces and are able to be seen by the naked eye. They look like long pieces of spaghetti. Treatment is simple and includes giving a single dose of medication, with an occasional follow-up dose, depending on infestation.
Tapeworms are also very common and are communicable to humans. They are acquired by ingesting an infected flea. A fecal float can be done, however the most common diagnosis is seeing them in the feces. If they are still alive they look like white grains of rice. If they are dead they look like sesame seeds. Treatment is simple and includes an injection or oral medication, with an occasional follow-up dose, depending on infestation.
Giardia is acquired through contaminated feces and by drinking infected water. It can be diagnosed through a fecal float but more commonly through and antigen test requiring a stool sample. The test takes 8 minutes. Treatment can be difficult depending on the infestation but usually includes a trial of medication.
Coccidia is acquired through ingestion of infected feces. The species of coccidia that affect dogs is not the same species that affect humans. It is not seen by the naked eye so diagnosis is done by means of a fecal float. It is easily treated with oral medication.
One of the most common signs of parasites is loose stools / diarrhea or bloody stools. Depending on the parasite, vomiting and difficulty breathing can be seen as well. If you notice any of these symptoms please contact your doctor right away.
January is Parasite Awareness Month. We are offering fecal floats at half price! Please feel free to call us at (510)797-2323 for more information or if you have any questions or concerns.