We all love our families and our pets, and we would do anything to keep them healthy and happy. As pet owners, we can keep our pets healthy by administering a broad-spectrum parasite preventative year-round, as recommended by the CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council). The preventative should have efficacy against heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas and ticks. This recommendation will help prevent diseases not only in our pets, but also our family members.
Some of the diseases that we can get from our pets (also known as zoonotic diseases) are roundworms, hookworms, and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and cat scratch disease. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick. Cat scratch disease occurs by the traumatic inoculation of the bacteria Bartonella henslea, and it’s transmitted from pets to humans via fleas. Roundworms (Toxocara spp.) are transmitted by the ingestion of the egg from a contaminated source, such as soil or pet feces. Hookworms, like roundworms, can be transmitted by ingestion of the eggs; however, they are commonly acquired by penetration through the skin. This is the main reason why dogs (and cats) are not allowed on beaches or playgrounds with sandboxes, which are places where people lay on the sand and walk barefoot. If dogs defecate on the sand, that immediately becomes a public health problem.
Since ticks live outside, people and pets are at the same risk of being bitten. However, dogs and cats can bring them into our homes if we do not apply the appropriate preventative product. There is one tick (brown dog tick) that can be found in cracks and crevices in houses, garages and dog runs. These ticks often crawl up walls in homes and kennels, posing a risk to indoor-only pets.
Some of these diseases can be very serious. For example, a roundworm infection can cause visceral larva migrans, a medical condition that could affect the liver and lungs, and ocular larva migrans, which can cause blindness. Hookworms commonly cause cutaneous larva migrans, and it’s one of the main reasons why people should not work in the garden without gloves. Lyme disease is characterized by an acute or a chronic infection that can affect our joints, kidneys and immune system.
A monthly dewormer, usually included in the monthly heartworm prevention, and a flea/tick control product will protect your pets.
By Dr. Wilmer Bustelo, contributing writer and owner, along with his wife Dr. Marcia C. Salazar, of Woodstock Veterinary Hospital.