Fleas: Fleas are a parasite that can affect both cats and dogs. They threaten the health of humans and animals due to allergic reactions caused by their bites, and disease transmission. Fleas survive on blood meals from their host. The Adult flea injects antigenic saliva into the host potentially causing major Flea Allergic Dermatitis. Fleas also act as intermediate hosts to tapeworms. When the animal host bites at it's fur in response to itchiness caused by the flea, then ingests the flea which is harbouring tapeworm larvae, the host becomes infected with tapeworm. Fleas thrive in warm, humid conditions. Although fleas are not as much of a nuisance here in Alberta as they are in more humid climates, we still do see our share of them on dogs that frequent the countryside or have travelled out of province.
Ticks: Ticks are not just an unpleasent nuisance, they can spread diseases to both pets and humans. Ticks satisfy their nutritional requirements by feeding on the blood of their host. Some tick species can carry Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tick Paralysis and encephalitis. Ticks are increasing in distribution worlwide and they can be found on dogs year round in some areas. Cats are not affected as much by ticks because of their tendancy to constantly groom. Check out the following websites for more information about ticks.
Ear Mites: Ear mites are microscopic mites that live in the ear canal of the infected host. Ear mites can be seen in several types of mammals but are most often seen in cats and ferrets. The mites are highly contagious and can be transmitted easily by even just brief physical contact between animals. If left untreated, ear mites can cause secondary ear and skin infections and in severe cases hearing loss. Signs your pet is infected with ear mites may include excessive scratching of the ears, fresh or dried blood in the ear canal resembling coffee grounds or dirt, shaking of the head, excessive twitching of the ears, wounds just below the ear or on the neck caused by scratching.
Heartworm: Mosquitoes transfer heartworm larvae from an infected dog to a healthy dog. The larvae develop into worms that live in the heart and blood vessels feeding off of the host's blood supply. Heartworm is a serious infection that if left untreated will progress into heart failure, lung disease and sudden death. If treated early, the outcome can be favorable, but sometimes damage done by the parasites cannot be reversed completely. Prevention is the best defense against heartworm. We recommend using preventative measures when travelling to endemic areas and during the summer months.
Roundworm: One of the most common internal parasites infecting animals and people and the most common parasite we see in puppies and kittens. Adult roundworms live in the small intestines of dogs and cats feeding off the intestional contents. There are several ways a puppy or kitten can become infected with roundworms: Prenatal infection before birth, through the mother's milk, from ingesting soil infected with eggs or from ingesting an intermediate host such as a rodent.
Roundworms are of particular importance because of the threat they pose to humans especially to young children who have a history of eating dirt. In humans, the roundworm larvae migrate to the liver, lungs and skin. In heavy infestations they can travel to the heart, spleen, kidneys, brain and eyes causing severe illness and blindness.
Tapeworm: Tapeworms are an internal parasite most commonly seen in cats. The tapeworm is composed of a head that attaches itself to the intesional wall and a body comosed of segments which contain eggs packets. The segments, which resemble grains of rice, break off and can often be seen in the feces or the anal area of an infected aminal. For the infection to be eliminated the head must be destroyed. Tapeworm can be contracted by eating fleas or lice that harbor immature tapeworms in their intestines or from eating rodents, birds, uncooked meat or raw fish. A cat or dog infected with tapeworm does not normally pose a threat to humans. Humans are much more likely to become infected with tapeworm by eating undercooked meat or raw fish.
Hookworm and Whipworm: Although whipworm and hookworm are not prevalent in our province, it is not uncommon for us to see it in patients who have travelled outside of the country. They are both commonly found in tropical, moist climates. Hookworm and Whipworm are both intestional parasites that can cause weight loss, bloody diarrhea and in some cases anemia. For these reasons it is important to put your pet on preventative medication if you are travelling.
Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection most commonly seen in dogs. Leptospira bacteria survive in warm, wet conditions and are commonly seen in stagnant water such as ponds. Wild animals can carry Leptospira and the bacteria is shed in their urine. Therefore, it is commonly found in contaminated water in rural areas. Leptospirosis can cause fever, muscle and joint pain, jaundice, vomiting, diarrhea and general weakness. In severe cases it can cause kidney and liver failure. Leptospriosis can be transmitted to humans by the handling of infected urine. Vaccines against Leptospirosis are available and are recommended for dogs in areas where the disease is common. Talk to your Veterinarian to determine if your dog is at risk.
Hyperthermia and Heat Stroke
Although heat stroke is not caused by a parasitic infection, we feel it is very important to mention due to the risk it poses to our pets. Hyperthermia is an increase in body temperature above normal values. Hyperthermia can be caused by a fever due to illness or by the body becoming overheated due to environmental factors. Hyperthermia caused by environmental factors (high outside temperatures) is often referred to as heat stroke. Heat stroke often occurs in hot, humid summer weather when dogs are left in vehicles without adequate ventilation. In warm temperatures a parked car can become a death trap. It is estimated that the interior temperature of a parked vehicle can increase by as much as 20 degrees celsius in one hour even with the windows cracked open. Signs of heat stroke include: excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased salivation, restlessness, pale, bluish or bright red gums, difficulty walking and/or diarrhea and vomiting. In severe cases you may see collapse, seizuring and/or respiratory arrest. Pets can also develop heat stroke if left outside in hot, humid weather without adequate shade or drinking water and by exercising in hot humid weather.
To avoid your pet becoming overheated always be sure to provide an area outside with lots of shade on hot days, provide plenty of fresh, cool drinking water, don't exercise dogs during the hottest times of the day, consider giving heavily furred animals a summer hair cut and most importantly DO NOT LEAVE PETS UNATTENDED IN PARKED CARS!!
*** HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY SUMMER!! ***