Thursday, Jun. 4th 2020

What’s Bugging Your Pet? Common Parasites, plus Corona virus updates

What’s Bugging Your Pet?  We thought you might be interested in some of the parasites your pets may be exposed to in our area.  We are happy to help you decide the best prevention to use for your pet depending on their risk of exposure to each of these.

Roundworms: An intestinal parasite contracted from eggs in the soil.  When your pet licks their feet after being outside, they may ingest these eggs.  These are the “spaghetti-like” worms several inches long.  They are common in puppies and most wildlife. Monthly heartworm prevention usually prevents infection.  They disrupt nutrient absorption and cause an unthrifty appearance and pot belly in heavily affected animals.   Kittens and puppies should receive treatment for these on their first visit.  Larvae of this species can accidentally infect people and damage tissues such as the eye or even the brain through their migration.

Hookworms: These tiny worms are blood-suckers and a heavy infestation can cause anemia and even death.  They are contracted by consuming eggs from soil contamination, and also from larvae that burrow directly through the skin. Also common in baby animals and wildlife, they are usually controlled through an initial deworming treatment and monthly prevention.  These worms are often passed to puppies from their mother before they are born.  People can also contract this parasite.

Whipworms: Less common, these worms burrow into the walls of the large intestine and can cause chronic diarrhea, colitis, and other digestive issues.  They are also contracted from soil contamination by their eggs, which may remain infective for years.  Some types of heartworm prevention will prevent these as well.

Stomach worms: Called Physaloptera, these worms are contracted by a pet that consumes their intermediate host, usually a beetle, cricket or cockroach.  They cause chronic vomiting, and may be hard to diagnose with a fecal examination as they lay small numbers of eggs. 

Heartworms: These 4 to 6-inch-long worms are contracted from a mosquito bite and live inside the heart after developing from microscopic larvae.  ONE mosquito bite can be enough and in this area there is a 30% infection rate among unprotected dogs.  They cause heart and lung damage if not treated.  Treatment is very expensive and uses a number of medications that are quite potent.  Monthly prevention with a good heartworm prevention product will keep your pet from contracting this deadly parasite.  This infection takes 6 months to result in a positive test, which is why we recommend year-round prevention starting in young puppies, and also why we need periodic tests throughout the dog’s life. Cats can also get heartworms though this is less common.  We do have prevention for cats as well.

Fleas: These tiny arthropods (insects) live all around us in the weeds and bushes and lawns your pet comes into contact with daily.  Many wild animals carry them as well.  They cause itching and in high numbers can cause anemia by their blood-sucking ways.  Fleas can enter your house on any pet that goes outside, or sometimes even your own clothing. There are a number of safe and effective preventive products for keeping these at bay.   A pet that swallows these fleas may develop a type of tapeworm as fleas are an intermediate host. Fleas also may carry diseases such as rickettsia, plague, and mycoplasmas.

Ticks: These relatives of spiders mostly live in brushy areas or high weeds.  They attach to any warm-blooded creature that brushes by.  They are blood suckers and also can carry several diseases like Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis.  A good combination flea and tick prevention product will keep your pet safe.

Giardia and Coccidia are protozoal diseases that are contracted from contaminated areas, particularly moist ones.  They can be common in unsanitary kennel conditions, and can be difficult to clear completely from your pet.  They cause diarrhea, often bloody, weight loss, cramping, and can be deadly in a heavily-infested or compromised baby animal.  Treatment may take some time, and occasionally more than one round of medications.

Ear mites: These parasites are contracted from close contact with an infected animal either through sleeping together or sharing bedding.  They cause intense itching of the ears and a red-brown granular looking discharge in the ears.  Some animals may scratch to the point of bleeding and often shake their head as well.  These are usually easy to diagnose and treat.

Tapeworms: There are several different families of this parasite. The most common ones are contracted by eating either fleas or the raw meat of an intermediate host.  These hosts vary by species of tapeworm but can include rabbits, squirrels, fish, and even cows or sheep. These worms attach to the wall of the large intestine and impair digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Some pet will experience diarrhea while others will look unthrifty. You may see small rice-like segments of these parasites around the rectum or on stool.  Some may still be moving.

Sarcoptes mange mites: These mites are known as a zoonotic parasite.  This means you can catch them from your pet (and vice versa!).  This disease is known as sarcoptic mange in pets, and scabies in humans.   It is contracted by contact with an affected animal, or shared bedding. You may have seen foxes, coyotes, or squirrels with these mites, completely lacking hair.  These mites burrow into the skin and cause intense itching.  In dogs, it commonly affects elbows, armpits, and face.  Luckily, it is easily treatable.

Demodectes mange mites:  This is another type of mange.  These cigar-shaped mites live in the hair follicles of all dogs and usually cause no issues.  However, in some pets the immune system is impaired and doesn’t keep them in check.  A localized form where there are just a few hairless spots on face and legs is usually self-limiting.  However, in some pets it can spread and cover much more of the body.  Treatment is available but severely affected pets may need an immune supportive supplement.  This parasite usually does not cause itching unless the skin develops a secondary bacterial infection. 

UPDATE ON PRACTICE SCHEDULING:  We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation. Through the month of June, we plan to maintain a mostly curbside practice model, where we ask that you stay in your car while your pet comes in for treatment.  Please make sure your pet is secured in a carrier, or has a properly fitted harness or collar they cannot slip out of.  Bring a cell phone as we are using them to collect payment in most cases, or for the doctor to call if there are questions. For more complex cases and euthanasias we are allowing clients in the building IF they wear a mask but we need you to request this ahead of time.  As always, we operate by appointment only and are spacing appointments to allow for the extra time needed to take payments over the phone and talk to you at your vehicle.  Please plan to stay on our property during your pet’s appointment as very few of them take long enough to allow time for errands.  If you leave during the appointment, we may need to charge a boarding fee if our next appointment arrives before you return.  We ask that you let us know everything you would like done for your pet when you make the appointment so we can be sure to schedule ample time.  If numbers of COVID infections continue to drop in our area throughout June, we should return to a more normal practice model in July, although we may still be requiring masks of those entering the building.  Remember, we are a small single-doctor practice.  If Dr Leonard gets corona virus we MUST close for 2-3 weeks.  We are trying to keep our services available to all. 



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Whole Health Pet Center
18011 E St. Rte 58
Raymore, MO 64083

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