There are two main internal parasites that may affect our pet dogs and cats, intestinal worms and heartworms.
Worming is one of the first health care issues pet owners need to address as pups and kittens are the most susceptible. As their name suggests, intestinal worms are parasites that live inside your pet’s intestines. These worms range in size from small to surprisingly large (up to 18cm in length). Regardless of their size however, they all have negative, and potentially deadly effects.
Most species of animal, as well as humans, can be infected with intestinal worms including dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, fish, birds and reptiles.
Common intestinal worms in Australian pets are Roundworms, Tapeworms, Whipworm and Hookworm.
If your pet has a large number of worms it may affect it's body condition and weight. In some cases it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even anaemia (a low red blood cell level). Occasionally, heavy intestinal worm burdens can cause death.
It is important to maintain a routine worming treatment for your pets, to reduce the incidence of infection and to reduce environmental contamination.
There are many worming treatments available. These can be purchased as tablets, spot-ons, or pastes. Re-infection can be a common problem, particularly if the pet is left in contact with a contaminated environment.
Another very important reason to worm your pets is to protect your family; as children in particular can become infected with certain dog and cat worms.
Heartworm, or Dirofilaria immitis, is a parasite that is spread by mosquitoes, so you pet does not even need to be in contact with other pets to become infected!
Heartworm has a complicated life cycle. Infected dogs have microfilaria, an immature form of heartworm, circulating in their bloodstream. Microfilariae are sucked up by mosquitoes when feeding on the blood of infected dogs. The immature parasite develops into a heartworm larva inside the mosquito, then a single bite from a carrier mosquito can infect your pet (dog or cat). As the worms mature in the heart they can cause a physical blockage as well as thickening of the heart and associated blood vessels. In the earlystages of infection there may be no visible signs, however, infection may eventually lead to signs of heart failure (reluctance to exercise, lethargy, coughing) and even death. Heartworm is present throughout most of Australia (except Tasmania and arid areas).
Thankfully, heartworm is very easy to prevent and should form part of your pet health care routine. We have very effective preventative treatment options available including tablets, chews, spot-on's and even an annual injection for dogs administered by one of our vets. If your pet has not been on heartworm prevention we strongly recommend a heartworm test prior to starting a prevention program, followed by a repeat test 6 months after commencing.