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March 21, 2022

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Parasites In Our Pets

As the weather warms up, our pets will spend more time outdoors and it’s also the time of year that parasites become more prevalent. Parasites include those found on the skin such as ticks, lice and fleas as well as those on the inside of the body such as giardia, tapeworms,  roundworms, and heartworms. 

External Parasites:

Ticks are very common in Central Oregon in the spring. If there is a warmer winter, we can see ticks as early as the beginning of February. Ticks are carried by wild animals (such as deer), so it’s possible for pets who just stay in town to pick up ticks. Ticks have the potential to carry diseases (such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme, Ehrlichia), which can be difficult to diagnose and treat.

Lice are species specific, so don’t worry, dog lice will not get into your hair! We often see lice in the spring and fall when there is some moisture in the ground. Most often a dog will get lice at a park as adult lice & the eggs can live in the grass. Lice cause dogs to be very itchy! 

When I first moved here about 10 years ago, I heard that there aren’t fleas in Central Oregon. This is not true! Although fleas are less common here than over in the Willamette Valley, it is possible for a pet that only lives in Central Oregon and never travels to get fleas. Fleas can be difficult to find on a pet as they are good at hiding in fur. Usually pets will be itching if they have fleas but if there are only a few fleas, symptoms may not be as obvious as when there is a larger burden of fleas. 

The good news about these parasites is that you can use preventatives to keep your pet from getting them. For dogs & cats, Pawtown Veterinary Care carries Credelio, which is a once monthly oral chew. Fleas and lice will also need some environmental clean up so be sure to ask about any steps needed to clear infestations. If you’re traveling with your pet, you may need to consider flea and tick preventatives during Winter months as well. 

Internal Parasites:

The most common internal parasite seen in Central Oregon in dogs is giardia. Giardia is a protozoal parasite that is picked up by drinking contaminated water (usually a small pond or puddle) or eating another animal’s stool. Some dogs with giardia will develop diarrhea, some will have soft stool, and others will not have a lot of symptoms. Checking a fecal anytime your pet has abnormal stool and on a yearly basis can help detect giardia. There are different treatments for giardia but there is no prevention. Cleaning the environment is also an important part of clearing a giardia infection. If your pet is diagnosed with giardia, you should speak to your veterinarian about steps to take to clear the infection.

The most common internal parasite seen in cats in Central Oregon is tapeworms. Cats will get tapeworms by hunting or ingesting fleas. A small infection of tapeworms may not cause any symptoms, but if left untreated a cat may develop soft stool, vomiting or weight loss. A monthly dewormer and flea prevention can keep your friendly feline from getting tapeworms. As a dewormer, Pawtown Veterinary Care carries Profender which is a once monthly topical product.

Roundworms are very common in puppies and kittens. They can also be picked up by eating another animal’s stool or hunting. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting or finding worms in the stool. All puppies and kittens should be dewormed and a fecal should be checked to ensure any infection has been cleared. Adult pets should have an annual fecal test to screen for any internal parasites. A monthly dewormer is also a good idea in Central Oregon as many of our pets are very active and will come in contact with parasites. 

Clients often ask about heartworms in Central Oregon. Heartworm infections are not commonly diagnosed in dogs never leaving Central Oregon. However, heartworm is present in nearby areas that are frequently visited by our pets (Southern Oregon, Willamette Valley). Heartworms are a blood borne parasite that are spread by mosquitoes during warmer weather and can be diagnosed with a blood test. Once a dog develops symptoms of heartworm, there is usually a large load of worms in the bloodstream and it can be fatal, so it is best to prevent infection. At Pawtown, we recommend Interceptor PLUS, which is a once monthly oral chew that covers tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and heartworms. 

If you have any questions about internal or external parasites and the need for preventatives, please reach out to us at Pawtown Veterinary Care and we are happy to help!