Protecting your pet from external and internal parasites (and their associated diseases) is every pet owner’s responsibility. But there are some misconceptions about parasites in the city and whether or not they are a threat to our pets.
External parasites are the ones most people think about and try to avoid. Especially in the spring and summer, mosquitoes are out in droves, along with other creepy-crawlies. Since the Los Angeles area doesn’t experience the deep freeze of the eastern and northern states, parasites are a problem year-round.
Parasites in pets weren’t as big a problem (prior to the 1970s) for a few reasons, the first of which being an increase in warm winters. Because we are traveling more between states and countries, we bring back parasites that perhaps weren’t as prevalent in our area before.
Regardless of the reason, there are a few common pests that cause harm to pets (and people).
Fleas – Fleas are tiny insects that feed off the blood of their host, leaving their excrement on the skin and fur (this is usually the first thing a pet owner will see). These common external parasites can wreak havoc on a pet, as well as on their home and other family members, causing itchiness, skin problems, and flea allergies in some pets. Fleas also carry vector-borne diseases like Catch Scratch Fever and even plague (although rare)
Ticks – Ticks are actually tiny arachnids (spiders) rather than insects. They can easily hide in the fur while they feed off of their host animal, which they attach to to feed off of the blood. Tick diseases are transmitted to pets through wildlife hosts, like deer and racoons. Some ticks in the West carry serious diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and Canine Ehrlichiosis.
Heartworm – Heartworm disease has seen a spike among the dog population in Los Angeles. These parasitic worms that resemble strands of spaghetti are transmitted through mosquito bites. The larvae develop in the heart and lungs, growing into adult worms and reproducing. This disease can be very costly to treat and can even be fatal, especially in cats.
Over the past few years, Los Angeles and the southern California area have experienced an alarming increase in internal parasites. In fact, an estimated 1 in every 8 pets are diagnosed with one of these internal pests.
What are internal or intestinal parasites?
These intestinal worms attach themselves to and/or feed off of the host in the gastrointestinal tract. Tapeworms are prevalent in cats and hookworms in dogs. Most puppies and kittens are dewormed when they are young because certain internal parasites are passed between mother to newborn.
Signs of internal parasites are:
- Weight loss
- Itching at rectum
Parasite Prevention in LA
Since these parasites can be serious, what can a pet owner do to protect their pets? It’s actually an easy answer. The best approach is to keep your pet on flea-tick and heartworm preventives, which can be prescribed by your veterinarian. At your pet’s annual wellness checkup, your pet will be screened for internal worms, including heartworm.
Keep the yard and the community parasite-free by picking up pet waste. Avoid allowing your pet to eat fecal matter and drink from puddles, creeks, and public pet water stations.
If you would like more information on parasite prevention in LA, please do not hesitate to call.