As winter starts to fade away and the weather begins to warm, people and pets yearn to go outdoors – even if just to explore their own backyard. While fresh air and sunshine are healthy, there are dangers lurking just outside the door. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other parasites and pests are just waiting to take a bite. What can Westport pet owners do to provide adequate parasite prevention for pets? The good news is that smart habits can reduce the risk to both pets and people. Seasonal pet tips like these and more, along with a professional veterinary check-up, can help keep your pet healthy and happy as they celebrate the new season outdoors.
Common Parasites in Southeastern Massachusetts
Like the rest of the country, folks who live in the South Coast area have certain parasites that are more prevalent than others. New England is known for its issues with ticks, which can transmit disease to both people and pets. While other pests, such as fleas, mites, mosquitoes, and other parasites, always pose a risk regardless of the season or location, it is essential to focus on prevention techniques and good habits to reduce your risk for bringing ticks indoors. While it is fairly common for dogs and cats to become infected with internal and external parasites at some phase in their lives, the more you can do to minimize the opportunity for exposure, the better. While some pests merely irritate, others can transmit life-threatening diseases or cause conditions that could be fatal if left untreated.
Some of the parasites that we frequently see in the United States include:
- ear mites
- mange mites
Diseases That Come from Parasites and Pests
While most New Englanders are well-aware of Lyme disease, which can come from ticks, they might not be aware of the other illnesses and diseases that they can transmit to both pets and humans. Fleas can serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms, which can be dangerous for people and their pets. A zoonotic disease is something that is transmitted directly or indirectly from animals to humans, such as certain worms that can come directly from the environment. Other pest and parasite diseases are known as vector-borne, which means that they come from things like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes to infest cats, dogs, and sometimes people. Some of the vector-borne diseases caused by ticks include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, relapsing fever, and tularemia.
Intestinal worms can also infect cats, dogs, and sometimes impact people, as well. In our list above, those worms include tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Studies show that just one worm can produce more than 100,000 eggs each day, which are passed in the pet’s feces and spread throughout the area that the pet roams, such as a backyard shared with humans. Once they are out and in the environment, the eggs can present a continued health risk to humans – and your pets – for many years. Heartworms are a different type of problem. They are transmitted by mosquitoes and are considered both a vector and intermediate host-type disease. Heartworm can kill or debilitate pets that become infected, as they live in the lungs, heart, and bloodstream of the pet. A test is required by your local veterinarian prior to providing treatment as parasite prevention for pets.
How to Reduce Your Risk
An annual veterinary check-up to make sure that your pet is healthy is an excellent first step at preventing many risks associated with parasites and pests for your pet and your family. It is also a good idea to reduce your risk by restricting pet access to certain areas that might result in more exposure to fleas, ticks, and other parasites. If your pet is infected, make sure that humans do not access contaminated areas, such as sandboxes, play areas, walking areas, and other places where dog feces are present. Disposing of feces and watering down areas regularly can help to prevent worm eggs from being picked up and ingested by pets or humans.
Parasites are out there year-round but are more common during the spring and summer months. Westport pet owners should be vigilant throughout the year, but commit to increased measures during this time. If you are interested in scheduling a veterinary check-up for your pet to get on track with parasite prevention for pets and people, contact Anchor Animal Hospital at 508-996-3731. We can answer any questions you might have about preventive measures, offer advice to Westport pet owners to reduce risk, and schedule an appointment for your pet.