, Newburyport, MA


May 17, 2013

Paw Prints: Spring is prime time for disease


2. Flea infestations. Fleas love humidity, and fleas love heat. That combination creates the perfect flea breeding ground, and your home could be party central.

Fleas will hitchhike into your home any way they can. Your pet may investigate wildlife bedding and come home with guests. Or visiting friends may inadvertently carry sticky flea eggs on their clothing from their home to yours. Either way, fleas multiply rapidly at this time of year.

In addition to the obvious disgusting nature of those bloodsucking critters, fleas are undesirable because they spread disease. Some pets are allergic to flea saliva and develop horrible, itchy rashes.

Tapeworm eggs can be spread by fleas. If you see wiggly ricelike segments under your cat’s tail, tapeworms may be the culprit.

Fleas can also spread germs to pets that make people sick. Cat scratch disease is just one example.

Fortunately, there are many safe and effective ways to prevent fleas on your pets and in your home. If you are reluctant to use pesticides, your veterinarian should be able to discuss other options with you.

3. Intestinal parasites. The most common worms that can live in your pet’s intestines are roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms.

These worms can spread to people, too. When this happens, they travel around the body searching for pet intestines. Symptoms in people depend on where the worm migrates. Pet roundworms are reported as the leading cause of blindness in children.

Pets acquire these parasites various ways. Puppies and kittens are infected with roundworms during nursing. Some adult dogs eat feces from other pets. Hunting cats might consume worm eggs along with their mouse meat. These eggs are found in many places, so every pet is at risk.

Fido and Fluffy should have their stool checked for parasites at least annually. If they go outside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends monthly deworming. Fortunately, many monthly heartworm preventives also address common intestinal parasites.

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