There are 2-types of parasites in pets:
Intestinal parasites(roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, hookworms, pinworms, flukes etc.),coccidia, Giardia and Heartworms. Some Intestinal parasites like roundworms, and giardia can be transmitted from pets to people. Most of these parasites are transmitted through feco-oral route. Hookworms can penetrate through intact skin. Tapeworms and most flukes need intermediate host for transmission. Most common intermediate host for tapeworms is flea or rodent ingestion.
Prevention of Intestinal Parasite transmission: The Center of Disease Control recommends annual fecal testing for all pets. Some parasites like tapeworms and whipworms may not show up on fecal testing, therefore anual de-worming with broad spectrum de-wormer is recommended for all pets. Hand washing is highly recommended to pet owners before eating meals to prevent intestinal parasite transmission.
Heartworms: Heartworms (Dirofilaria Immitis) are transmitted by mosquito bite. Heartworms are known to cause serious illness and death in pets. Female heartworms produce harmful toxins. It takes 6-months for female heartworms to mature and produce antigens. Hence, heartworms do not show positive for first 6 Months after infection. We follow the guidelines of the American Heartworm Society and recommend annual heartworm testing .We recommend first heartworm test for all dogs at age 7-9 Months and on annual basis thereafter.
Canine Heartworm disease Prevention: There are multiple oral and topical medicines available to protect pets from heartworms. Veterinarian can help you in selecting the best product for your dog. All these products are supposed to be given to pet(s) once a month. Heartworm antigen test is most reliable to diagnose canine heartworm disease.None of the heartworm preventive product is 100% effective. Heartworm disease has occasionally been reported in some dogs which were on regular preventive heartworm medicines, therefore annual testing is necessary even when they are on regular monthly heartworm prevention.
Puppies can be started on monthly heartworm prevention at 8-week age. Heartworm test is not necessary at this early age to start heartworm prevention. If pet is around 6-Month age, it is important to perform heartworm test prior to starting them on heartworm prevention.
External parasites include fleas, ticks, mange or body mites and lice .They can cause serious illness in pets. Fleas and some species of mange or mites can cause serious health issues in people. We recommend regular flea prevention by encouraging application of monthly topical flea control products on your pet's skin. Tick prevention by topical medicines is recommended if your pet resides in tick infested area. Fleas transmit tapeworms and feline bartonella infection (cat scratch disease) to cats. Cat scratch disease is communicable to people by stratch or bite by infected cat. Ticks can transmit many diseases including rocky mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and lyme disease in pets and people.
We recommend flea and tick prevention by using topical flea and tick products on pets skin every month. Applying such products after you see parasites on the pet will kill the parasite but, not help to treat infection that may have already been transmitted to pet(s) from bites of those parasites.
Every pet with visible parasites or Pruritis(itching) should be examined by a veterinarian and treated appropriately.