Spring has (finally) come to Michigan, and pet owners everywhere are eager to get out with their furry friends to soak some much needed fresh air and vitamin D. If protecting your best pal from pet parasites isn’t your top priority as you plan your next trip to the woods or park, it should be. Parasites are ubiquitous in our environment, and if we don’t take proper precautions, our pets (and our families) could be at risk for pet parasites.

Pet Parasites 101

There’s nothing like embarking on a springtime adventure with your pet, but it’s important to keep in mind that you are not alone. We share the land with a wide variety of creepy-crawlies, many of which can do some serious damage to our pets:

  • Fleas – Fleas thrive both indoors and outside. Besides being annoying and uncomfortable for your pet, fleas can spread diseases, such bartonella (cat scratch fever), tapeworm, and plague.
  • Ticks – Ticks are abundant in the spring and summer months, and can negatively impact both pets and people by transmitting Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne encephalitis, and other dangerous illnesses.
  • Heartworm – Heartworm disease is transmitted via mosquitoes and poses a serious threat to your pets. Heartworm is found in all 50 states and can affect pets at any time of the year.
  • Intestinal parasites – Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are just a few of the many intestinal parasites your pets may be exposed to through contact with contaminated feces, soil, water, or plants.

Prevention Is the Best Medicine

Keeping your pet on a year-round parasite preventative is the single best thing you can do to protect him or her. Many flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives also contain medications to control certain intestinal parasites.

Other ways you can protect your pet include:

  • Managing the outdoor environment your pet spends the most time in can help keep pests at bay. Ticks and fleas thrive in weedy areas or dense brush, so be sure to keep the vegetation on your property trimmed and free of weeds. Remove any standing water you find outside of your home to reduce the number of breeding mosquitoes on your property.
  • Stick to maintained paths or trails while hiking or walking, keep pets leashed at all times, and don’t allow them to go into brush or weedy areas. Applying mosquito/tick repellent to yourself (never use this on pets, however) may also deter pests from getting too close.
  • Inspect your pet for ticks each time he or she comes in from outside. Remove any ticks you find embedded in your pet’s skin immediately.
  • Keep your pet away from rodents and wildlife, which are often carriers of both external and internal parasites.
  • Consider vaccinating your pet for Lyme disease if he or she spends a lot of time outdoors in tick infested areas.
  • Don’t skip your pet’s wellness exams! Your pet’s annual heartworm tests, fecal checks, and other diagnostics are important in the fight against parasites.

Your proactive, pet parasite control measures can keep your pet’s spring healthy and itch-free! Give the team at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital a call with your questions or concerns.