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Pets, Parasites, and People: When Sharing Isn’t Caring

While parasites are less common in the southwestern United States than they are in wetter climates, we frequently have pets test positive for parasites. This is concerning, particularly since some parasites can be spread to humans.

Pets at higher risk for becoming infected come into contact with other animals, go to high-traffic animal areas such as parks, or come from wetter climates. Puppies and kittens are particularly susceptible to parasitism because they get infected from their mothers and have immature immune systems.

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

When people talk about parasites and pets, they often talk about “worms”. Tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms all fit this description, and can sometimes be seen in poop. This is disgusting, but at least makes it easier figuring out why your pet isn’t feeling well.

It’s important to remember that not all parasites will show up in poop so easily. The wormy varieties are not always shedding, so they could be living in the intestines undetected. There are other parasites that aren’t worms at all, but rather single-celled organisms that can’t be seen by the naked eye.

When Sharing Isn’t Caring

If your dog or cat has parasites, these can be transmitted to other animals, and in some cases, people. Although your pet may not have symptoms, another animal or person may not be so lucky, and could become very sick if infected. Children are particularly at risk for parasites from pets, as they are more likely to not wash their hands after playing with pets or in the dirt.

Real pals don’t share parasites.

Get Tested, Get Treated

The good news is that parasites are treatable, and can usually be detected by inexpensive, routine fecal tests. These should be performed with all puppies, annually, and whenever an at-risk animal develops digestive problems.

If you think your pet has parasites, then make an appointment with your veterinarian. As there are various types of parasites, successful treatment requires identifying the parasite and then treating with the appropriate medication.

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