Parasites on Pets: Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? by Dr. Kerr

Dear Dr. Kerr

We have dogs and cats in the house and recently I have found moving things on their skin. What can these be?

Signed, Worried

Dear W,

Dogs and cats, especially if they go outdoors can pick up hitch hikers who come home to dine on them or their family members. This time of year, the early spring, we see a proliferation of ticks, fleas and the occasional mosquito which may pester our pets and us. Later in the warmer months, fleas and mosquitoes become more of a problem.

Ticks are small bugs and are about the size of a nail head when they first drop onto dogs and cats. These little creatures have a local anesthetic in their saliva and this allows them to bite and burrow their heads into the skin and feed for up to one week. During this time they grow  to the size of a grape and are filled with eggs. At this stage they fall off (in or out of the house) and lay their eggs. The problem for pets is these ticks can pass on blood parasites which can make dogs very sick.

Fleas most of us have seen. They are brown, flat from side-to-side and are very fast and tough to kill. They live on pets but can feed on people too. Adult fleas can live for 2 weeks and lay up to 300 eggs in that time. These eggs fall off in the house and hatch into little biting fleas. You can see that in a very short time houses can become infested with fleas making life difficult for pets and people. Fleas can cause skin irritation in dogs and cats and can be a source of blood parasites for cats.

Mosquitoes we are all aware of. Those pesky flying vampires love us and our pets. We need to worry about West Nile Disease and dogs need to worry about heartworm disease both of which can be passed through the saliva of the mosquito as it feeds. These little devils can find their way into our homes so even pets who are kept indoors can be at risk of irritation and disease.

Spring and summer are the times to protect our pets from parasites. There are numerous forms of pill or  topical products to keep our pets safe. These parasite prevention products reduce irritation and disease in our pets and help to keep our houses free of unwanted parasites. Using these products we can be safe that we know who is coming to dine in our house.

Talk to your veterinarian team about parasite prevention products so you can stop worrying and enjoy the sun in the spring and summer.