By Dr. Veja Tillman, DVM
Control of parasites is an important key to keeping your pets happy and healthy. Healthy pets may not show outward signs of a parasitic infection. For this reason, numerous pet health organizations recommend treatment for parasites be maintained year-round. Periodic diagnostic testing and examination by your veterinarian play a pivotal role in helping to maintain your pet’s health. Protecting your pets from parasites also protects your family. So, how do we keep our pets free of parasites?
There are several methods of treating parasites in pets. However, the most effective method is to maintain a complete parasite control program. The initial step of a parasite control program is treatment of your pet(s). Treatment with a flea and tick control product (either topical or an oral formulation) and with deworming agents are recommended.
External parasite control includes topical treatment (such as Frontline, Advantage, Bravecto, etc) or oral treatments (Nexguard, Simparica, Credelio, Bravecto, etc). Dewormers for internal parasite control include Strongid, Panacur, or Droncit. Your veterinarian can make recommendations for parasite control based on your pet’s individual needs.
In recent years, broad-spectrum control products with efficacy against heartworm, intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks prevent disease in pets by preventing the most common internal and external parasites.These products includeSimparica TRIO, Trifexis, or the use of a combination of ProHeart with a flea and tick control product.
In addition to treating your pet(s), your pet’s environment must also be treated. This includes thoroughly cleaning your pet’s sleeping quarters and vacuuming floors and furniture that your pet encounters frequently. Careful and regular cleaning of the pet’s living area helps to remove eggs, larvae, and other infective debris from the living environment. Treatment of the home and yard with use of insecticides may also be advised to eliminate any parasites that may have escaped from your pet(s). Some forms of immature parasites are more resistant than adults to insecticides. Trimming and removing brush and picking up and disposing of pet waste also help to reduce your pet’s exposure and risk of infestation.
Parasite infections in humans can be easily prevented by practicing good hygiene and sanitation. Children should be discouraged from eating dirt and should not be allowed to play in areas that are soiled with pet feces. Sandboxes should be covered when not in use. Adults and children should always wash their hands after handling soil and after contact with pets. Shoes should be worn when outside to protect feet from larvae present in the environment, and raw vegetables should be thoroughly washed because they may contain parasites from infected soil. Pet droppings should be immediately picked up from public areas and from your yard to reduce the chances of contaminating the soil. Keeping cats indoors is an effective way to limit their risk of exposure to parasites.
Pets remain susceptible to parasites throughout their life. These infections can be controlled by continuing broad-spectrum monthly deworming year-round for the life of your pet.
- Look for fleas, ticks, and coat abnormalities any time you groom your pets or when you return home from areas that are likely to have higher numbers of parasites.
- Consult your veterinarian if your pet excessively scratches, chews, or licks his/her coat, scooting or persistently shakes the head or scratches ears.
- Prompt treatment of parasites lessens your pet’s discomfort, decreases the chances of disease transmission, and may reduce the degree of home infestation.
- Discuss the health of all family pets with your veterinarian when one pet becomes infested. Some parasites cycle among pets, making control of infestations difficult unless other pets are considered. Consult your veterinarian before beginning treatment.
- Tell your veterinarian if you have attempted any parasite remedies, as this may impact your veterinarian’s recommendation.
- Leave treatment to the experts. Your veterinarian offers technical expertise and can assist you in identifying products that are most likely to control your pet’s parasite problem effectively and safely.
ABOUT DR. TILLMAN
Dr. Tillman is a 2002 graduate of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. Her veterinary practice and work experience focuses on patients at emergency and critical care centers in Southwest Florida. She is the owner of Just 4 Pets Wellness Center and can be reached at 239-270-5721