Life is a Celebration! But… Who Invited the Parasites?

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We have all, at certain times in our lives planned a party and so we all know that it is pretty annoying when right in the middle of it, some uninvited guests show up (no one knows who told them) and put all the fun at risk with their bad temper. Well, if you want your pets to live life at it’s fullest, like the celebration it is, you need to make sure the uninvited guests don’t show up and ruin all the fun! That’s not hard to achieve: if we look at our pets’ life like a celebration, parasites are surely uninvited and it’s OUR job to make sure we kick them out or never let them in, in the first place!

There are many parasites willing to get a ride on our friends’ soft fur and join the party – so to speak. These parasites vary in their characteristics and in the reactions they cause to our pets’ health and wellbeing ( sometimes even in our own quality of life!). If you think that because they are small, they are harmless, think again! In fact, mites, lice, fleas and ticks – and we are only mentioning the most common – might be the beginning of more serious health problems.

The prevalence of ectoparasites may vary according to season and the region you are at and our pets’ lifestyle. However, it is possible that even with all the preventive measures at hand, at some point, all pets get one parasite or another. It’s not the end of the world IF you do things right!

  • Mites – Thankfully, these are not the most common, but their effects can be devastating! Mites are skin parasites that remain hidden by fur whilst they bury themselves in your pet’s skin. They are so small that they are hardly seen. But they can have a significant impact in the skin (and ears) causing really unpleasant alterations – like scabies. This is a highly contagious disease. And given our pets’ social lives, it can be rapidly transmitted between them or even to us!
  • Lice – We have all heard of lice, but normally connected to kids in schools and not to our pets! Note that the lice that affect dogs and cats are different than the ones that affect kids. Lice are very specific for the species they parasite. But if we don’t tolerate them in kids, then we shouldn’t tolerate them in pets. Because they are a different species of lice, our pets are not transmitted to humans. You can easily spot them and they can cause hair loss, dermatitis and itchiness. Your pet might seem restless, as it might be really disturbing for them. Lice don’t have wings so they can’t fly! This parasite’s infestation is only possible by the direct contact between pets and by sharing the same bed, towels, brushes and some toys. There are lice that feed by dead cells coming from the skin of your pet and there are the ones that feed on blood. These last ones can cause anemia.
  • Fleas – These are the most common parasites among pets and probably the ones you fear the most, as they can be transmitted to humans. They are prolific breeders meaning that a small group of these little pests will rapidly originate millions of others and will attack throughout the whole year. That’s what makes it so hard to fight them. In case of a flea infestation, only 5% of the parasites will be on the pet. The rest of them, still eggs, maggots or cocoon shapes will be hidden under the mattress, upholsteries and all blankets or beds that your pet is using. Cocoons can stay inactive for months, leading us to believe we won the battle, only to find they come back when you least expect it. To win the fight against a hoard of fleas, you need to make sure you interrupt their lifecycle – stop the adults from generating more eggs. Fleas can be really disturbing by the intense itchiness they cause. They can also be the vehicle for intestinal worms and cause serious diseases, so besides external parasite prevention, make sure regular deworming is in place.
  • Ticks – This is another common foe. During warm seasons, specially where humidity is favorable to its subsistence and when there is more sun exposure and intense light, ticks have the perfect environment to grow. In some countries, especially where winter temperatures don’t really drop, ticks can prevail for the whole year so seasonal protection isn’t enough. We need to maintain external parasite prevention throughout the year. Until it finds a host, ticks will survive in the surrounding  environment: bushes, walls, benches. Waiting for the unsuspecting victim to walk by. Tick bites can cause lesions on the skin called “eschars”. The neurotoxins present in some ticks’ saliva might cause toxic effects and even paralysis. Because they are able to ingest high quantity of blood, they can cause anemia and a state of weakness in the “host”. Besides all that, ticks transmit a lot of different diseases caused by protozoans, bacterias and viruses (most of them known generically as “tick fever”). Among these diseases are Babesiosis, Rickettsiosis, Lyme Disease (Borreliosis) and  Ehrlichiosis.

Be sure to keep up with the suggested preventive health plan, for everyone’s sake. Ensure  the health and well being of the entire family! You can set reminders on your Petable App so you never forget when it’s time.

Make sure the party goes as planned without intruders nor side effects. It’s really not that hard, It’s in your hands!☺

Carla Teixeira, Journalist | Crazy Cat Mom

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