As we all know, internal parasites commonly cause signs such as vomiting and diarrhea. But parasites can also cause "subclinical disease," which means that they affect the health of the pet in more subtle ways. In fact, this is the more common form of the disease. You may see the subtle signs, such as a poor coat or you may see nothing at all, but pets should not have parasites. It does affect their health!
If your pet has parasites, you are at risk as well. Often times these parasites pose a significant health risk to humans. Take roundworm for example: the roundworm larvae can encyst in the eye, brain, liver, kidney or elsewhere in humans which requires prompt medical attention. We also frequently find Giardia which causes Beaver Fever and this can cause serious intestinal upset in humans as well.
We always recommend an inexpensive yet highly effective fecal test with our annual exams. When performing a fecal analysis, we are looking for 3 parasites: roundworm, hookworm and whipworm, as well as Coccidia and Giardia. When running a fecal flotation, the technician will first visually examine the feces for signs that something isn't right, such as mucous, adult worms or tapeworm segments. The stool sample is then processed so the technician can look at the sample under a microscope to look for eggs, microscopic parasites or blood.
Due to Vancouver's mild climate and heated homes, fleas are a problem year round. Vancouver is also a dog-friendly city: dog parks, trails, beaches, kennels, grooming salons, pet stores and day cares are all places that your pet can pick up fleas. Even an indoor cat can pick up fleas off of your dog!
Fleas are carriers of tapeworm and can cause a range of dermatological problems such as hot spots and flea allergy dermatitis, all of which require medical attention.
How can you protect your pet from parasites? Keeping your pet on a monthly parasite control medication is a cheap and effective place to start. Products such as Revolution and Sentinel protect pets against fleas as well as internal parasites. However, even with pets who are on monthly parasite control, we will always recommend a fecal test annually. We want to make sure your pet does not have a parasite that isn't controlled by the medication (and to make sure the medication is doing its job!). If you have any questions regarding parasite and flea control, please don't hesitate to ask us!
For more information about parasites, please visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council's website: http://www.capcvet.org/