WHAT ARE COMMON PARASITES THAT CAN INFECT MY PET?
Small companion animals, such as cats and dogs, can become infected with external and internal parasites.
External parasites live on the outside of your pet’s body, biting your pet to obtain nutrients from your pet’s blood. Examples of external parasites include:
Internal parasites are typically worms that live inside your pet’s body. These parasites either feed off your pet’s partially digested food or your pet’s blood. Examples of internal parasites:
HOW DOES MY PET GET PARASITES & HOW DO I KNOW IF MY PET HAS PARASITES?
External parasites are acquired from the environment or contact with infected animals. While you may be able to visually inspect an animal for external parasites, the first sign is often itching and scratching. Fur loss, red bumps, and flea droppings are also common signs of infestation.
Internal parasites are usually acquired from inadvertent swallowing of parasite eggs. Contaminated food, water, soil, or feces are common infection sources. Tapeworms may also be transmitted through the bite of infected fleas. Of note, puppies may acquire parasitic eggs in utero and while nursing. Kittens are also vulnerable to acquiring parasitic eggs from nursing. Many pets show no signs of internal parasite infection; the first sign is often the visualization of worms in the feces.
WHY DOES MY PET NEED PARASITE PREVENTION?
Veterinarians and veterinary societies recommend year-long parasite prevention against external and internal parasites, because infestations can pose serious harm to your pet’s health. In addition, the parasites that infect your pet are zoonic or are vectors for zoonic pathogens. This means that the parasites on or in your pet can infect humans and/or can transmit diseases to humans. (Example: A tick carrying Lyme disease may act as a vector, spreading the zoonic pathogen to humans and pets).
WHAT ARE MY PARASITE PREVENTION OPTIONS?
Most antiparasitic medications are prescriptions that a veterinarian must write for your pet. Your veterinarian will assess your pets individualized needs and will recommend product(s) that best prevent the most common parasites in your area.
Antiparasitic medications are dosed based on species (cat or dog) and your pet’s weight. Most products must be given once a month. There are topical formulations that can be placed on the skin of your pet’s back and oral formulations that are given by mouth. If you have a dog, there is also a once-a-year shot called ProHeart 12™ and protects against heartworms. The table below outlines a few common products you might see.
WHAT ARE SOME ADDITIONAL RESOURCES?
The best resource is always your pet’s veterinarian. If you would like to do more research into parasites and parasitic infections in pets, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is a great place to start. CAPC is an independent, non-profit organization of veterinarians that work to investigate and compile evidence-based best practice guidelines to help drive awareness for and prevention of parasitic infections in our pets and families.
Table 1: Select antiparasitic medications available for cats and dogs.
Prepared By: Jennifer Bennett, PharmD Candidate 2021
- Companion Animal Parasite Council. Published 2021. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://capcvet.org/
- Pets and Parasites. CAPC. Published 2021. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.petsandparasites.org/resources/pets-parasites-and-people
- External Parasites. American Veterinary Medicine Association. Published 2021. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/external-parasites
- Ward E, Barnette C. Internal Parasites in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals. Published 2021. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/internal-parasites-in-dogs