Internal parasites

Many companion animals may have parasites. And many of their owners are not aware of the health risks associated with living with their pets. Besides, they are not the only people at risk. Their neighbours are also at risk, especially children and people with a weakened immune system.

A parasite is an organism that lives inside another organism. Adult internal parasites can reach between one millimetre and several meters in length, depending on the species, and have complex life cycles in which, in general, they go through different forms or phases.

You may become aware of the importance of this problem by learning that up to 30% of dogs and cats may be infected by parasites, according to a report issued by the Madrid Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. This report also warns us that, while echinococcosis (tapeworm infection) is decreasing, diseases caused by protozoans, which are microscopic organisms, are on the increase.

We may add that one out of every four pet owners does not know what an internal parasite is, and half of them are not aware that they may cause diseases in humans.

Among the damage internal parasites may cause to their hosts are mechanical problems, such as tissue damage or obstructions, or nutrient loss, which may cause developmental delay. They may also cause toxic reactions or allergies.
It is important to remember that the faeces of companion animals, where parasites may be viable for long periods of time, are highly contaminating material in cities. Areas where people may be exposed to faeces (such as the sand in parks, beaches or gardens) may be considered risk areas. This is why it is important for owners to pick up their pet’s faeces immediately, and for cities to establish preventive measures in these areas. Unfortunately, these measures are not enforced or simply do not exist in beaches belonging to many towns on the Spanish coast.

Your veterinary surgeon will recommend the parasite control program which is most appropriate for your pet’s lifestyle. Periodic treatment with anti-parasite medication is the best method to prevent the risks associated with these infections. You should never miss a treatment. Avoid feeding your pet eating raw meat or entrails, and practice good hygiene.

Did you know...

In Spain different species of bats are carriers for the rabies virus. If you are bitten by one of these animals, you should seek medical advice immediately.

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