As kids, we have savoured moments playing Football in the pouring rain. As teenagers in love, we have often walked barefoot on the lawn hand in hand gazing into the eyes of our beloved. As parents, we have run after our teetotallers in public sand pits. You must be wondering what these select memories have in common? Believe it or not.. Parasites!
Like us, our pets too pick up unwanted companions of their own that tend to cause alot of nuisance and deteriorate their health. Dogs and cats are prone to external parasites like ticks, fleas and lice, as well as a plethora of internal scavengers broadly termed as worms.
Worms are mainly of 3 types, in colloquial terms , flat, round and tape. Different species of the animal kingdom are host to a variety of specific worms. Puppies are affected primarily by common roundworms- hookworms (Ancylostoma sp.) and whip worms. Toxocara sp. of round worms is endemic in both pups and adult dogs in the Delhi – NCR region. Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum and Echinococcus sp.) are generally found in the gut of adult dogs. However, Spirocerca lupi occurs in the oesophagus of dogs.Cats also harbour various species specific worms such as Toxocara cati.
Worms have a complex life cycle that involves a vector (transmission agent like a flea, mosquito, etc) and a host (eg: dog or cat). Generally, adult worms live in the gut of the host and eggs are passed out in the host’s faeces. These eggs are picked up by other pets on their routine walk, trip to the yard or sometimes even by licking other pets. Concurrent tick, flea of lice infestation predisposes companion animals to worm load, as they serve as a vector.
Helminthiasis (clinical term for worm infection) is manifested through clinical signs like scooting, dragging the hind quarters across the floor, diarrhoea with possible blood streaks, vomition, severe anemia (especially in puppies), and weight loss. It also decreases the pet’s immunity and can cause concurrent gastro-intestinal and skin infections.
External parasites (ticks, fleas and lice) cause annoyance, alopecia, allergic skin reactions and can also spread life threatening diseases like Tick fever characterised by constantly high fever and alarmingly decreased Platelet counts.
Animal helminths are of zoonotic importance and can pass over to humans in close contact with pets. Cutaneous and visceral larva migrans are two diseases in humans caused by animal worms in their non-specific host (Man). They spread through skin penetration. Toxocara sp. may cause abortion in pregnant women.
Diagnosis is mainly by stool tests. Oesophageal worms are diagnosed by Endoscopy, as done at CGS Hospital.
Regular and correct Deworming in consultation with your Vet is the prima donna of treatment and prevention. External parasites can be warded off with regular anti-tick washes, application of an anti-tick and flea spot-on or spray. Few ticks can be manually picked off the body on a daily basis.
Points to follow :
- Regular prophylactic deworming with the correct drug and dose is mandatory for your pet every 2-3 months.
- Get yourself and your family dewormed after consultation with your Physician.
- Always wear gloves when handling pet litter especially cats.
- Wear appropriate footwear in public parks or lawns.
- Wash your hands after contact with pets.
- Avoid mouth to face contact with pets.
- Bathe and groom your pets regularly to prevent tick/ flea infestation.
- Wipe your pet’s feet, face and tail after every walk.
- Keep their bedding are clean. Regularly dust and use anti-tick medication for their bedding area as well.
Parasite – o – mania :
- For every flea on your pet’s body, they may be 100 in the environment!
- Each tick can suck upto 0.1 ml blood!
- Puppies can pick up worms from their mothers! So, vaccination plus deworming is important.
Let’s try to worm our way out of this wormy situation! Cheers to good pet health!
By: Dr. Salisha Whitney Correia (M.V.Sc. Vet. Surgery and Radiology) and
Dr. Parmod Kumar (M.V.Sc. Vet. Medicine)
Veterinarians – CGS Hospital, Gurgaon