A parasite can be defined as “an organism living in, with, or on another organism in parasitism,” with parasitism defined as a relationship in which “a parasite obtains benefits from a host which it usually injures.” In short, parasites are creatures that take advantage of their hosts. Our pets are susceptible to a number of parasites that can cause mild to severe harm. Fortunately, avoiding them is easy, because a myriad of preventive products can keep them safe. But, do they really need year-round protection? The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) thinks so. Read on for some common parasite myths, and learn why monthly prevention is essential.
Myth #1: Parasites pose problems only in the spring and summer
Many people are shocked to know that many parasites—including fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites—can withstand harsh weather. While they thrive during warmer months, adult fleas can actually survive temps in the low 30s, and their pupae (i.e., the developmental stage between a larva and an adult) can tolerate freezing levels. A pet’s warm body becomes all the more inviting when the weather gets chilly, putting our furry friends at risk. In Port Charlotte, Florida, where the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees, parasites pose a greater problem, since most prefer milder conditions. Protecting your pet year-round is critical to prevent an annoying flea infestation or dangerous tick-borne disease.
Myth #2: My indoor pet does not need parasite prevention
It’s true that a pet’s parasite infection risk is greater the more time they spend outdoors, but indoor pets can also contract fleas, intestinal parasites, and other bugs. If you’ve ever had a mosquito in your home, your unprotected pet is also at risk for heartworm disease. Fleas and ticks can hitch a ride on your clothes, and migrate to your furry friend once you are inside. Whether you have a mix of indoor-outdoor pets, or pets who strictly remain inside the home, protecting them all with a broad-spectrum preventive is prudent.
Myth #3: Parasites can’t hurt my pet
Parasites are more than a nuisance. Not only can they cause harm by feeding off your pet’s blood and tissues, but they also carry debilitating diseases that can be difficult to treat. Hookworms—an intestinal worm with teeth—can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, and may lead to a life-threatening red blood cell loss (i.e., anemia). Mosquito bites can cause people to itch for days, but only a single bite to your pup can result in heartworm disease—a dangerous condition that compromises heart and lung function. Fleas can carry tapeworms, which are difficult to eliminate. Ticks can transmit a host of alarming conditions, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The silver lining? All these afflictions are 100% preventable with routine medications.
Myth #4: Parasites are a problem only in animals
While many pet parasites prefer the unique anatomy of dogs or cats, many also are actually zoonotic (i.e., capable of infecting humans, too). Most intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, and giardia, are transmissible to humans—particularly children, who are most likely to put things in their mouths. Fleas, Sarcoptes scabiei mites, ticks, and numerous other pests may find your skin a welcome home if given the opportunity.
Myth #5: Preventive pet medications are too costly
One of the main reasons pet owners choose not to use year-round prevention is the upfront cost. While this is a valid claim, it’s important to note that the cost to treat a parasite-related problem is often far greater than the expense of prevention. Heartworm treatment, for instance, can involve days of hospitalization, several injections, and months of strict exercise rest and monitoring, which can add up—especially if you don’t have pet insurance. Pet owners can choose how much parasite coverage to provide for their pet. Broad protection against fleas, ticks, heartworms, and other parasites is ideal, but may not be feasible for everyone. Our veterinary team can work with you to choose the best preventive products for you and your pet.
Are you convinced that your pet needs year-round parasite prevention? Contact us today for an appointment, or head to our online pharmacy to learn about our product selection, and put your pet on the path to a parasite-free life.