Tis the Season for Pesky Parasites

Warm weather and spring moisture help bring out the seasonal parasites that infest our pets. Since we, the pets, live inside your homes and sleep in your beds, we are happy to bring in and share all that nature has to offer from outdoors. I know your response of “yuck”, “ugh”, “gross” “keep it away from me” when finding a bug on us..…but…..my mom thinks about all the diseases those parasites carry and how they have the potential to cause severe problems for both pets and the humans they live with. Let’s learn a little about the most common diseases that can be transmitted by the parasites we see here in Western SD. Mom has seen most of these while practicing in Rapid City.

Tick borne diseases:

*Lyme Disease: (common) bacterial infection spread by deer ticks

  • may not show any signs for several months post infection
  • swollen painful joints, lameness, lethargy

*Ehrlichiosis: (common) rickettsial infection spread by dog ticks

  • may not show any signs for several months post infection
  • joint pain, weight loss, possible nose bleeds

*Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF): (common) rickettsial infection spread by ticks

  • sudden onset of severe illness
  • stiffness, skin lesions, neurological signs

*Babesiosis: blood parasite spread by ticks

  • parasites infect the Red Blood Cells
  • anemia, vomiting

*Anaplasmosis: bacterial infection spread by deer ticks

  • often referred to as “dog tick fever” in dogs
  • joint pain and neurological signs

*Tick Paralysis: neuro toxin carried by some female ticks

  • gradually increasing signs 6-9 days post bite
  • vomiting, unsteady, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, hind end weakness
  • can progress to paralysis
  • FIND and remove all ticks

Flea borne diseases:

*Tapeworms: fleas swallowed by pets may contain the tapeworm parasites

  • Life cycle: Adult tapeworms live in the pets intestines → eggs passed in proglottids in the pets feces → tapeworm eggs eaten by fleas → itchy pet swallows the flea to complete the life cycle.

*Anemia: due to blood loss by feeding fleas

  • fleas spend about 10% of their life cycle on the host feeding and 90% of the time in the general environment where the host lives If your pet has fleas – your home has fleas!
  • for every flea found on your pet, count on about 10 more in the environment where your pet sleeps and lives

*Bacterial Infections: bacterial bad guys are carried by fleas

  • Mycoplasma
  • Plague Yes the Plague! Fleas carry the Yersinia bacteria.
  • Cat Scratch Fever Bartonella bacteria carried by fleas causes that severe and potentially very dangerous reaction in humans from a cat scratch.

*Allergic Flea Bite Dermititis:

  • Many dogs are highly allergic to flea saliva and can have a very dramatic and severe allergic response to even 1 flea that bites them.

Mosquito borne diseases:

*Bacterial Infections

  • most commonly occur at the bite site

*West Nile: virus

  • horses and birds (as well as humans) are at greatest risk from West Nile
  • dogs and cats can become infected from the virus but in general appear to be very resistant to developing clinical disease

*Eastern Equine Encephalitis: virus causes “sleeping sickness”

  • this virus can cause neurological disease in dogs, however most dogs seem to be fairly resistant

*Zika: virus

  • at this time there is no evidence that dogs are at risk for developing disease

*Heartworm Disease: blood borne parasite spread from dog to dog by mosquitos

  • The serious and potentially fatal blood borne parasite Dirofilaria immitus lives in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels.
  • We will discuss this devastating disease in depth next month – the key is prevention!

Mange” – body mite infestations:

*Demodex and *Sarcoptes: these are common and are often seen on pets adopted from the reservations

*Cheyletiella: often called “walking dandruff” very dry flaky pets may look like flakes are in motion

*Ododectes: ear mites are more frequently seen in cats

Mites are highly contagious between pets. These microscopic mites live on the skin and burrow inside the hair follicles. It is common to see very intense itching from mite infestations. The intense itching can cause your pet to self-mutilate whining when scratching creating sores and hair loss.

Is your pet protected? Flea and Tick Prevention:

Collars: most of the collars have limited benefits.

  • The collar creates a zone of protection around the neck, leaving much of your pet’s body at risk. May be quite effective against parasites in close proximity to the collar.
  • The collar may be helpful for parasite prevention but does not work for an infestation.
  • Collars become less effective or ineffective once they have gotten wet. Collars must be kept dry to work.
  • Collars contain chemicals that can be toxic to your pet if chewed or ingested.
  • Serestro may be the most promising option for a collar.

Topical application: must be re applied monthly.

  • Generally lasts about 30 days. Re-apply every 28-30 days. Generally more effective than collars.
  • Not waterproof for up to 24 hours. Keep your pet dry for 24 hours after each application.
  • Depending on the active ingredients, dog products may be toxic to cats or small children, especially if the product is not completely dry.
  • Check product label for use in puppies or kittens. Never use dog products on a cat.
  • Generally good for prevention, with infestations best used in combination with oral tablets or other treatment options.
  • You often get what you pay for many of the less expensive topical products are also less effective and may have a greater drug resistance developed by the parasites.

Oral tablets: must be dosed according to manufactures dosing schedule.

  • Oral tablets are the newest weapons in the arsenal against parasites in dogs and are 11.5% more effective than topical treatments.
  • The most effective choice for infestations and can be used with some topical products.
  • Only used in dogs over 6 months in age. Do not give to cats.
  • Not to be used for pregnant, lactating, or breeding dogs.
  • Simparica, Bravecto, Comfortis, Nexgard, Trifexis: show about 99% efficacy for fleas, not all oral products control all species of ticks equally so check with your veterinarian.

How to treat a parasite infestation.

  1. Give your pet a bath and remove all the parasites you can find from their body.
  2. Place a flea collar in your vacuum cleaner bag, thoroughly vacuum your house and the pets sleeping areas then dispose of the vacuum bag. This helps keep fleas from marching (or hopping) back out into your home when you put your vacuum cleaner away.
  3. Talk with your veterinarian about the best control options for your specific pet. Take the Doctor’s advice they know your pet and their health concerns. Try hard not to panic and make a run to the pet store for help, they may not know the best options for your pet.
  4. Have Warren Chemical or another company come to treat both your house and yard. Professional extermination services are frequently less expensive, more effective, and use safer chemicals than trying to treat the premises on your own.
  5. Put your pets on a definite plan for parasite prevention and follow through.

I wish you a wonderful spring! Stay parasite free and we will learn about Heartworm Disease, testing, prevention, and treatment next month.


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