Wouldn’t life be so much easier if you could read your pet’s thoughts? For one, you’d know right away if something was wrong with their health. Unless you’re a dog or cat whisperer, pet owners usually don’t realize parasites have taken root until their poor furry friend starts getting an upset stomach on a regular basis. By then, parasites have long since made themselves at home in your dog’s or cat’s intestinal tract.
But there’s good news! You don’t have to wait until disaster strikes to know something’s gone awry with your pet’s health. In the spirit of Pet Parasite Awareness Month, here are some quick pointers on how to notice symptoms and prevent parasites from affecting your pet in the first place.
Basic facts about parasites
The first step in protecting your fur baby is to learn how parasites work. The word “parasite” covers a broad range of nasty invaders that can make your pet feel sick. However, the group of common parasites we’ll focus on are frequently known as worms. There are several different kinds—roundworm, whipworm, hookworm and tapeworm—but they all essentially have the same behavior.
These worms don’t look like the kind that wriggle on the sidewalk every time it rains. They’re microscopic organisms that enter your pet’s body through the mouth. Worms make their way to the intestinal tract where they attach to the walls of the colon. Since worms can’t be seen with the naked eye, you probably won’t learn of their presence until symptoms develop in your cat or dog.
You might be wondering: How do these gross parasites get into my pet’s mouth? Grass and dirt are possible sources of worms because wild animals may leave fecal matter behind when they pass through your backyard. Another source can be food that’s been lying on the ground for a while. This is why it’s important to keep a watchful eye the next time your dog goes outside for a bathroom break or you and your pet head out on an adventure.
Look for the warning signs
Worms are dangerous because some types don’t cause many symptoms. Your pet may suddenly begin to lose weight and act lethargic due to the worms feeding off their blood and nutrients. This can make it difficult to diagnose your furry friend.
It’s important to schedule an appointment with your vet if your cat or dog consistently experiences diarrhea or vomiting. Pets may suffer from unrelated digestive issues every once in a while, but you should be concerned if an upset stomach becomes the norm for your furry friend.
Other symptoms to watch for include:
- Scooting or itching anus
- Bloody stools
- Dull or dry coat
- Ravenous appetite
- Visible worms in stool
Also, pay attention to your pet’s health when they experience high stress levels. If parasite symptoms come and go, the issue could be caused by worm eggs that lay dormant in the intestinal tract until something in your pet’s environment stresses them out.
How to guard against parasites
It’s important to do everything within your power to protect your pet’s health. After all, the best method for treating parasites is to stop them before they turn into a problem. Obviously, you want your furry friend to be healthy, but you also have your own health and the health of your other pets to be concerned about, as well! Worms can easily transfer between pets and sometimes from animals to humans, so preventative measures are essential.
Preventing worms is very simple and can go a long way in keeping your family members safe. Since worms linger in the intestinal tract, pick up your dog’s feces from the backyard on a regular basis. Likewise, it’s best to clean litter boxes daily. Even though dogs are more susceptible to contracting worms, it pays to take the same level of caution with your kitties. Covering sandboxes and play areas will also stop wild animals from leaving unwanted presents your pets can get into.
Only feed your pets packaged food or meat that’s been cooked well to avoid spreading potentially contaminated food. Change your pet’s water several times a day, too. After a day of nosing around in the grass, you don’t want your dog introducing parasites to their food bowls!
Finally, have your vet conduct a worm check when you take your pet in for their annual exam. This helps ensure that your pet is free from parasites and won’t spread them to the rest of your family members.
If your pet does succumb to a parasite problem, de-wormers and other parasite products can clear them up quickly.
Spread awareness to help others
To help prevent pets from suffering from the effects of worms, share your newfound knowledge about parasites with fellow pet owners. Even though July is Pet Parasite Awareness Month, pet owners should always be cognizant of parasites lurking in their pets’ environment. Once people learn about a potential danger, they’re much less likely to be caught off guard by it. Schedule a fecal examination for your furry friend and say goodbye to parasites before they can pose a problem!