by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.
It is not uncommon for a dog or cat to become infected with an internal or external parasite at some point in its lifetime. Parasites can affect a pet in a variety of ways, ranging from mildly irritating to causing life threatening conditions if not treated. Some parasites can even infect and transmit diseases to you and your family.
Zoonoses, or zoonotic diseases, are those diseases that can be transmitted directly or indirectly from animals to humans. Veterinarians can help prevent, accurately diagnose and safely treat parasites and other health problems that affect your cat or dog and may impact the safety of you and your family.
Ascarids or roundworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites or worms that infect cats and dogs, especially when they are kittens or puppies. Eggs from these parasites are passed in the animal's feces. After a short time in a favourable environment, the eggs become infective or able to cause infection in other animals or humans who ingest them. In humans they do not develop into adult worms but cause health problems when the larva or immature worms migrate through the body. Young children are at greatest risk of infection with these parasites because of their intimate contact with contaminated environments as well as poorer hygiene. Also, persons who have a compromised immune system, as a result of disease or medication they are receiving, are another group at increased risk to these problems.
Pet owners can reduce the risk of parasitic infections becoming a problem to their family by eliminating parasites from their pets: restricting access to contaminated areas, such as sandboxes, pet "walk areas" and other high traffic areas; and practicing good personal hygiene. It is recommended to dispose of pet feces from deposit sites on a regular basis. This will help remove potentially infective worm eggs before they become distributed in the environment and are picked up or ingested by pets or humans.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is an independent council of veterinarians and other animal health-care professionals established to create guidelines for the optimal control of internal and external parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. Convened in 2002, the CAPC brought together expertise in parasitology, internal medicine, public health, veterinary law and private practice with the express purpose of changing the way veterinary professionals and pet owners approach parasite management.
Here are some of the guidelines this group recommends as responsible pet parasite control.
• Practice good personal hygiene.
• Only feed pets cooked or prepared food (not raw meat).
• Minimize exposure to high traffic pet areas.
• Clean up feces regularly.
• Visit your veterinarian for annual testing and physical examination of your pet.
• Administer worming medications as recommended by your veterinarian.
• Ask your veterinarian about parasitic infection risks and effective year-round preventive control measures that are administered monthly.
For more important information about parasite control guidelines, ask your veterinarian or visit the CAPC at www.petsandparasites.org