Summer is the best time to get out and have fun with your favorite furry friends, but with the warm weather comes an increased risk for contracting parasites. But just because there are more pesky pet parasites waiting to cause problems, doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors and miss out on the seasonal fun with your dog or cat. You just need to know what summer pet parasites to look out for so that you can take care of them quickly and effectively.
Summer Pet Parasites to Look Out For:
- Fleas: Arguably the most prevalent of all pet parasites, fleas on cats and dogs are a big nuisance during the hot summer months. These pesky pests feed on the blood of their host, reproduce quickly and are very hard to get rid of. Symptoms of fleas on cats or dogs are itchiness, hair loss and skin scabbing. Once contracted, the best way to remove them is with tweezers or special tools sold at pet stores. There are also various sprays, combs and shampoos that can help.However, the best way to deal with fleas is to never give them a chance in the first place. If you want to stop flea infections before they even start, flea preventatives are very effective. Plus, they come in a range of affordable options! Everything from topical gels to oral medications to collars (and more) can help ward off summertime flea attacks, and they’re all easy to find and buy online or in your local pet store.
- Ticks: Ticks are also rampant during the summer months, when they wait to ambush unsuspecting cats, dogs and humans alike in wooded or grassy areas. Just like with fleas, the best defense is preventative measures like once-a-month topical treatments, sprays and powders, shampoos, collars and much more. However, if you suspect that cat or dog ticks are already present, quick removal is essential to prevent the spread of disease.If cat or dog ticks are attached to their hosts long enough, they may even transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Just like with fleas, there are all sorts of options for warding off ticks so they never become a problem in the first place. In fact, many of the same preventatives that work for ticks work for fleas, too (and vice versa!). Because of the added threat of Lyme disease, it’s also worth asking about a Lyme vaccination at your next vet visit.
- Lice: Cat and dog lice live in the hair (or fur) of their hosts. There, they use their hook-like claws to hang on while sucking blood for survival. Signs of cat or dog lice include scratching, itching, wounds and hair loss around the ears, neck, shoulders or groin.Luckily, lice have limited mobility, which means these particular pet parasites aren’t capable of flying or jumping onto hosts from any ol’ leaf in the woods. But be careful taking your pet to communal outings with other animals since cat and dog lice are both easily transmittable through direct contact. As always, check your dog or cat’s fur every time it comes in the house, or if you notice odd symptoms. That way, you can quickly find a topical or other treatment to get your furry friend feeling fine again.
- Mosquitoes: For cats and dogs, the biggest threats from mosquito bites are West Nile virus and heartworms. Fortunately, West Nile in pets is rare, but there are also no vaccines or treatments for dogs or cats who do get infected. To help prevent disease transmitted from mosquitoes, pets should be kept indoors or closely monitored during the busiest mosquito-feeding hours.Pet owners should also take preventative measures to minimize mosquitoes living around the house, including removing areas with unneeded standing water, and possibly utilizing mosquito repelling plants and outdoor products. In addition, pet-approved mosquito repellents can be applied to all areas of your dog or cat’s body, which is a good idea if you’re going out into mosquito-dense areas in wet or warm climates. Just make sure to read the label first so you know whether it’s pet safe or not!Another big threat posed by mosquitoes is heartworm, which you can read more about below!
- Worms: Worms in dogs and cats are nasty little things. Symptoms of worm infections include diarrhea (which can be bloody), weight loss and vomiting. Even worse, cat and dog worms come in many different types (and sizes). Regardless, they all like to stay hidden in the host’s intestinal tract, free from detection. The only way of telling exactly what type of cat or dog worms you’re up against is though a microscopic stool exam, best carried out with the assistance of a trained veterinarian. Sometimes, there aren’t even many symptoms, but worms may still be present. That’s one of the reasons regular vet checkups are so important!
Once spotted and identified, you’ll find that cat or dog worms usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Roundworms: Roundworms are the most commonly found worms in dogs. Often, puppies get infected at birth from a mother who passes them along. They’re white or light brown in color, and are often noticeable in your dog’s feces or vomit.
- Whipworms: These worms are transmitted to pets when infected matter is eaten, which can be anything from food to water to soil. Sometimes, they’re even transferred through simple contact with other animals!
- Hookworms: Hookworms in dogs and cats are a particularly grave threat because their blood sucking can lead to internal bleeding. All puppies should be mandatorily treated for hookworms at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age with special vet-prescribed medications.
- Tapeworms: Tapeworms in dogs or cats are often the result of fleas being accidentally ingested. They can reach considerable lengths (up to 28 inches!) and their bodies are made up of small segments. These segments break off inside the host, ending up in feces later on. Finding such segments in waste is one of the biggest indicators that you might have an ongoing issue with cat or dog worms.
- Heartworms: As mentioned above, mosquitos bites can transmit heartworms to mammal hosts, including dogs and cats. Unfortunately, heartworms are a serious, progressive condition that can cause fatal damage to the host. This variety of worm is large (up to a foot!) and it live inside the host’s vital organs. This can lead to to lung disease, heart failure and other complications over time. While it’s more common to find heartworms in dogs, they have been found inside feline hosts as well. Initially, there are no symptoms, but as more worms spread throughout the body, you may notice a variety of alarming symptoms such as weight loss, cough, lethargy, abnormal breathing and more.
Preventing Worms in Dogs and Cats
The most difficult part of dealing with worms is knowing how to recognize signs of infection. Depending on how long the worms have been there (and what type of worms you’re dealing with), diagnosis and treatment options vary. Drugs are often effective at destroying worms and their larvae, assuming they haven’t been there too long already. This is why regular veterinary appointments are so important. It’s also a great idea to get your pet a vet-prescribed monthly heartworm medication such as Heartgard. This will provide additional protection from heartworms, roundworms, hookworms and the like.
Whether it’s ticks, lice, worms, or fleas on cats and dogs that you’re worried about, PetFirst Pet Insurance can help keep the costs of any necessary vet visits down. That way, your pet’s summer can be as safe as it is fun.