Does the thought of your pet having fleas or worms make you feel itchy or nauseous? Parasites may be very unpleasant, but they are a very common problem that affects most pets at some point during their lifetime. These pests can be prevented if you subscribe to a very strict schedule of preventative care. Nevertheless, parasite testing is still advised as part of any pet's annual or 6-monthly wellness screening appointments.
We are pleased to be able to offer comprehensive parasite testing here at our vet clinic in Geneva, OH. In the meantime, here is what you need to know about parasite testing and why it is so important.
TYPES OF PARASITE AND WHAT THEY MEAN FOR YOUR PET
There are numerous different types of parasites that can affect our beloved animals. These are usually split into two categories – internal and external parasites.
Internal parasites are those that live inside your pet’s body. These are predominantly varieties of worms, including tapeworms, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, and heartworms. Whilst they can all cause debilitating and unpleasant symptoms, heartworms are extremely dangerous for animals that contract them. This is partly because they are virtually symptomless until their infestation becomes serious and due to their location within your pet’s body. Heartworms live inside the blood vessels of your pet’s heart and lungs. They can grow up to a foot long and reproduce, clogging up the blood vessels and preventing blood flow. This leads to irreparable organ damage and eventually death. Treating heartworms is difficult, but the earlier your pet is diagnosed through parasite testing, the better the chance he has at making a full recovery.
Other internal parasites that can affect your pet include giardia and coccidia. Most internal parasites are contracted when your pet ingests parasite eggs or spores in contaminated food, animal feces, water or soil. Heartworms are different and transmitted by mosquitos. It is also important to note that some types of internal parasites, including hookworms and roundworms, are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed from animal to human.
As you might expect, these types of parasites live outside of your pet’s body, with the most common varieties being fleas, ticks, and mites. While these tiny creatures may seem harmless, they can have significant consequences for the health of your pet. Fleas cause itching, dermatitis and in some cases anemia. They can also spread tapeworms. Ticks meanwhile are well known for their ability to transmit life-threatening diseases including Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tick Paralysis. Fleas and ticks will also happily bite humans that they come into contact with, so it is important to protect your pet from them as much as possible and treat any infestations promptly.
WHAT DOES PARASITE TESTING INVOLVE?
Since external parasites can be seen and felt with the naked eye, testing is principally for detecting internal parasites. Whilst symptoms may be present, testing is usually the only definitive way of making a diagnosis.
Parasite testing usually involves two key elements. The first is a poop sample. This is because internal parasites often pass out of your pet’s digestive tract and into their feces. Poop samples can be used to detect virtually all types of internal parasite and your pet’s specimen will be sent off to the lab to check for the presence of anything abnormal.
The second element is the blood test. Heartworms live in the lungs and heart and therefore cannot be diagnosed through a fecal analysis. A blood test can be used to check for their presence as they release chemicals into your pet’s circulatory system. Since it can take up to six months after an infestation to detect these chemicals (they are only released by adults and it takes around 6 months for heartworm larvae to mature), annual heartworm testing is strongly recommended.
If you would like more information about the importance of parasite testing, or you would like to schedule an appointment for your furbaby, please get in touch with Geneva Veterinary Clinic in Geneva, OH today 440-703-8100.