Companion Animal

Parasites in Cats and Dogs: Common Signs and How to Prevent Them

Jul 28 • 3 minute read

As a pet owner, your top priority is giving your companion plenty of TLC. However, parasites could frustrate your best efforts to keep your pet in good health. Parasites can be difficult to detect, but they can deprive your pet of necessary nutrients and cause internal damage. A severe infestation could cause a myriad of health problems and, if left untreated, could be fatal. Read on to learn how to detect a possible parasite infection and the measures you can take to prevent one.

Symptoms of a Parasitic Infection

A parasite is a tiny organism that lives within a larger host and feeds off its nutrients, causing a variety of symptoms and health challenges. As a pet owner, several tell-tale signs should warn you about the possibility of a parasitic attack.

Unexplained Weight Loss

You might be following your vet’s dietary instructions religiously, yet you can’t explain why your dog or cat seems to be losing weight. Many parasites, such as tapeworms, can reside in your pet’s digestive tract. When this happens, the parasites deprive your pet of necessary nutrients and can cause inexplicable weight loss.

Gastrointestinal Distress

If your cat or dog experiences symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal bloating, a parasite may be to blame. Intestinal parasites like tapeworms and roundworms can cause damage and irritation to the digestive organs. Should your cat or dog exhibit these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Stunted Growth

Because parasites deprive their hosts of vital nutrients, they can cause delayed growth in younger pets. In pets who have finished developing, parasites may still cause visible signs of malnutrition, like dry fur, hair loss, or a coat that appears duller than usual.

While the above symptoms are a reason for concern, you should be especially wary when your pet is pregnant since there are very high chances that the parasites will be passed to the pet’s offspring.

Visible Parasites

If the infection is severe enough, you may notice tiny parasites crawling near your pet’s waste or bedding. If you suspect your pet is suffering from a parasitic infection, keep a close eye out for this tell-tale sign of infection. If your pet seems to be experiencing pain or irritation around their backside, it could also signal parasites.

Preventive Measures

Since parasites are often ingested by pets accidentally, your first line of defense is to take care of your pet’s general health, food, and environment. It’s important to remember that some parasites are microscopic, and you can’t detect them with your naked eye. To protect the ongoing health of your pet, follow these preventive measures:

Schedule Regular Vet Check-Ups

Parasites are not an uncommon issue, especially for younger pets or pets that spend a lot of time outside. Getting your pets checked by your trusted veterinarian is the surest guarantee you have that you’re not exposing your beloved pets to parasitic attacks. A routine test might reveal the presence of parasites that you would otherwise be unable to diagnose.

Regular Deworming

Even when you have no visible evidence of the presence of parasites, it may sometimes be prudent to give your pet deworming medication. For example, if your pet recently traveled with your or was boarded with other animals, a deworming may be in order. Speak to your vet about any concerns you have and follow their recommendations for deworming treatment.

Keep Your Home Free of Waste

The feces of an infected pet could be the medium through which the infection is passed on to the other pets. The soil gets contaminated by waste from unhealthy pets, and should other pets dig into the soil while playing outside, they could be infected. Therefore, you should endeavor to remove all pet waste from your yard as soon as possible. Be sure to keep your cat’s litterbox tidy and regularly clean it with soap and water.

Focus on Prevention

Knowledge and prevention are two key components of pet care. With a thorough understanding of how to detect and prevent parasitic infections, you will be well armed against this common veterinary health concern. Be sure to contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the above symptoms in your pet or if you have any questions regarding parasite risks and prevention.

In addition to ensuring the good health of your pets, it’s vital to remember that most parasites can be passed on to human beings, so take great care when cleaning your home or caring for a pet during a parasitic infection.

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