Why Should You Care About Parasites?

Indoor cats and dogs can have parasites
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Summer is almost here, and many of us are thinking about what fun outdoor activities we can squeeze into our already busy lives. For many of us, heading to the beach, park, woods or even a neighbor’s cookout would be unthinkable without including at least one furry companion. If that sounds like you, you probably already have a strategy in mind for controlling fleas, ticks and other parasites. But what if your pet’s lifestyle doesn’t involve much time in the great outdoors? Should you still worry about parasites? The short answer is yes, because many parasites can become problems even for pets who rarely venture outside. Consider:

  • Research has shown that more than 25 percent of heartworm-positive cats live exclusively indoors. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, and since they get inside your house and bite you, they can get to your cat, too. Needless to say, indoor dogs are also at risk.
  • Some intestinal parasites can be transmitted to puppies during fetal development or to puppies and kittens as they nurse from their mothers. So even if your new puppy or kitten has never been outside and seems perfectly healthy, he can still have intestinal parasites. If you introduce a new pet into your home, he can also bring parasites with him and expose your other pets and family members.
  • Fleas can get into your home more easily than you might think. Even if your dog doesn’t spend a lot of time outside, it doesn’t take long for fleas to find their way to him and back into your house. If someone visiting your home brings a pet and that pet has fleas… well, you get the idea.
  • You don’t need to hike through the woods to come into contact with ticks. Although ticks like to inhabit wooded areas, spots near your home, such as woodpiles, shrubs and tall grass, can also be attractive to the parasites.
  • Your happy, healthy, bouncing adult dog or cat may not have diarrhea, vomiting or other signs of intestinal parasites, but many animals with worms don’t show signs of illness. The best way to determine if your pet has intestinal parasites is to see your veterinarian for an examination and fecal test. Don’t just assume that a pet who seems fine is.
  • If your dog or cat is already receiving a product that controls fleas, ticks, heartworms and some intestinal parasites, great job. You’re taking parasite prevention seriously, and your pet is undoubtedly healthier because of your efforts. But there are intestinal parasites out there, like Giardia and Coccidia, that preventive medications can’t control. 

So why should you care about parasites if you already take excellent care of your pet? First, be proud of yourself for doing a good job looking out for your companion, but understand that parasites are everywhere, and, although we have products to control them, we still have to be vigilant. That means checking your pet (and yourself) for ticks after being outside, scheduling regular veterinary wellness visits that include fecal testing, and continuing the year-round use of safe and effective products that control dangerous parasites.

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