Bugged Out: Parasites, Pets, and Parks

A puppy scratching itselfDog parks and other pet friendly outdoor locations are popular, especially during the spring and summer months. Who doesn’t love to roam through the blooms, enjoying the fresh air with a four-legged pal? However, while these gathering places can be great for exercise and socialization, they’re also popular among pests.

Parasites, pets, and parks seem to be a common but crummy combo, encouraging the spread of harmful diseases. Keep reading to learn more about how to keep your pet from falling host to these bothersome bugs.

Parasites, Pets, and Parks: Why Prevention is Your First Line of Defense

Most pet parents know that being outside anywhere can present a greater risk of encountering parasites and choose to keep their pets on a year-round preventive.

However, visiting dog parks and places that are popular with people and their pets can up the ante on pests you may not consider. Internal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, are all too easy for an unprotected pet to pick up through exposure to infected water, soil, or feces.

Along with these GI parasites, your pet’s risk of exposure to Giardia is much greater in places with communal drinking bowls and standing water. Giardia is a protozoan parasite that can be found in most bodies of water, including streams, ponds, and lakes, as well as in contaminated soil and feces. Giardia can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration. It’s also an illness that is zoonotic, meaning it can be transferred between animals and humans, placing family members in homes with pets also at risk.

Of course, fleas and ticks are also problematic in areas where animals gather, and it only takes a few fleas to “hitch a ride” on a pet to create a full-blown infestation. Likewise, one bite from an infected mosquito can cause heartworm disease in a cat or dog not on a preventive.

Other Parasite Prevention Tips

So, knowing that there are so many dangers related to parasites, how do you avoid a problem for your precious pet? We’re glad you asked!

Take these simple precautions before heading outdoors (and remember that parasites can affect indoor pets too):

  • Keep your pet on a flea and tick preventive throughout the year (parasites are active all year long).
  • Have your pet screened for internal parasites at least once yearly and maintain a monthly heartworm medication, which also protects against other GI parasites.
  • Pick up after your dog, and do not let him or her investigate the feces of other animals, wild or domestic.
  • Bring your own water bowl and fresh water, and discourage your pet from drinking out of communal bowls, puddles, or other standing bodies of water.
  • Practice good hygiene by thoroughly washing your hands after picking up dog waste or petting other pets (this is particularly important for children).

Remember, too, that dog parks can be ground zero for infectious diseases, such as parvovirus, canine distemper, and kennel cough. So, before you head out for some fun with your pet, please call us to ensure he or she is completely up-to-date on all vaccinations.