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Are Parasites Killing Your Pets

We all want to take care of our beloved pets but is it possible that parasites are endangering their lives? Although dogs and cats are generally considered to be rather disease free, they are both susceptible to parasites such as hook worms. Otherwise known as Dipylidium Caninum, the “hook worm” is a particularly nasty parasite that can and will shorten the life of your pet unless properly treated.

Parasites like the hook worm actually have teeth that they use to attach to the small intestine of your dog or cat (actually, these parasites are also a danger to humans too!). Now these are rather simple parasites with three basic body parts: the head, neck, and tail. Every hook worm has only one head and neck, but they may have several tail segments.

The tail segment is very important to parasites like the hook worm because this is how they breed. Every tail section has the reproductive organs for the hook worm. Sections of tail break off all the time and are passed with other solid waste (in the animal’s feces). Fleas, who lay their eggs in feces, eat the tail segments and are thus infected with hook worm.

The parasites are passed on to the animal when the flea bites it. It is also possible for animals to become infested with these parasites by eating the fleas themselves. Therefore, the best prevention for hook worms is to rid your home and yard of fleas. Then, make sure the animal is free of the parasites by taking it to your veterinarian. If infected, the animal will be orally given a mild poison that will cleanse its system of the hook worms.

Hook worms may not seem like very dangerous parasites but their effect upon animals is cumulative. After prolonged periods of infestation, animals will appear emaciated as they will have been deprived of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients by the parasites clinging to their intestinal walls. In time, the immune system will weaken and the animal will become prone to disease. If left untreated, hook worms are indeed parasites that can and will kill your pets.

It is usually possible to determine if your animal has hook worms by inspecting its stool for the parasites. Plus, if the stool is often too wet or runny, it is likely your pet has hook worms. Pets suspected of having the parasites need to be taken to the vet immediately as the risk of spreading hook worms to humans is very real. After the animal has been rid of the worms, be sure to destroy any flea populations in the area or the risk of re-infection is very high.

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Ticks – A Very Serious Threat to Your Dogs Health

dog ticks

Ticks are not insects like fleas, but arachnids like mites, spiders, and scorpions. A tick has a one piece body, harpoon like barbs around its mouth to attach to a host for feeding, crablike legs and a sticky secretion to help hold itself to the host. The United States has about 200 tick species whose habitats include woods, beach grass, lawns, forests, and even in some urban areas.

They have a four stage life cycle, egg, larvae, nymphs, and adult. Depending on its species, a tick may take less than a year or up to several years to go through its four stage life cycle. Adult females of some species lay about 100 eggs at a time. Others lay 3,000 to 6,000 eggs per batch.

Ticks can carry various infectious organisms that can transmit diseases to cats and dogs as well as humans. The four primary diseases and their symptoms are:

- Babesiosis – lethargy, loss of appetite, weakness, pale gums
- Ehrlichiosis – high fever, muscle aches
- Lyme disease – lameness, swollen joints, fever, poor appetite, fatigue, vomiting
- Tick paralysis in dogs – gradual paralysis and poor coordination

Of the four diseases, Lyme disease is the worst, as it can also infect humans. Studies indicate that dogs are 50 percent more susceptible to this disease than humans. Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of the deer tick, also called the black-legged tick. Symptoms in humans include fatigue, chills and fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and a red circular skin rash. In June 1992 the USDA licensed a vaccine to prevent Lyme disease in dogs. There is no vaccine for cats yet.

If your dog is outside regularly, ask the veterinarian about the Lyme disease vaccine. Watch for the symptoms mentioned earlier, and if you suspect a tick-borne disease get your dog to the vet immediately. With early diagnosis, antibiotics generally work. If possible, dogs should be kept out of tick-infested areas. In areas where ticks are prevalent, yards where dogs exercise should be treated with appropriate chemicals to kill adult and immature ticks.

Dogs should be examined frequently for the presence of ticks on their bodies. Ticks prefer sheltered locations, such as inside the ears and between the toes of the host, but a heavily infested dog may have ticks anywhere on its body. When a tick is found it should be removed immediately. The proper way to remove a tick is to use fine-point tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull gently, if the ticks mouth parts remain embedded in the animals skin, you should try to remove them as you would a splinter. Alcohol or other disinfectants should be used on the bite site, the tweezers, and your hands if you do not wear gloves.

Tick can and will survive after they are removed from the host. You should flush the tick down the toilet or drown them in a small container of alcohol. You should never squeeze a tick as it will release toxins that may contain any of the diseases discussed earlier. Hundreds of pesticides and repellants are available to control ticks on dogs and cats. Products range from oral medications that are available only from your veterinarian, to collars, sprays, dips, shampoos, powders, and spot-ons.

The chemicals Chlorpyrifos and Amitraz are used in several types of products and are very effective against ticks. Amitraz should not be used on dogs that are sickly, pregnant, or nursing. However, no matter what type of medication you use, always check with your veterinarian first.

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