Studies show intestinal parasite prevalence among cats is 10.1% to 22.8%, and 12.5% to 34.4% among dogs. As a pet owner, you don’t want your animal companion to suffer from the effects of parasites. That is why a complete animal vaccination is strongly encouraged by vets.
Aside from the general discomfort that your pet experiences, here are some of the ways that parasites can affect their health:
1. Weakened Immune System
Intestinal parasites can weaken your pet’s immune system, making them more susceptible to other infections. For example, Toxoplasma gondii is a common protozoan parasite that can infect dogs and cats. If your pet becomes infected with this parasite, they may develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
In some cases, Toxoplasma gondii infection can also lead to pneumonia or meningitis. In other words, they can suffer from a severe internal medical condition that can be potentially fatal.
Another common effect of parasites on pets is anemia. Many parasites feed on your pet’s blood, which can lead to anemia. This is especially true for parasitic worms such as heartworms, hookworms, and roundworms.
These worms can grow up to 12 inches long and live inside your pet’s intestines or heart. If left untreated, they can cause serious damage to your pet’s organs and eventually lead to death.
Parasites can also cause diarrhea in pets, leading to dehydration if not treated immediately. Diarrhea is a common symptom of many parasite types, including Giardia, Coccidia, and Cryptosporidium.
These parasites can cause severe gastrointestinal distress in pets, resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. In some cases, diarrhea caused by parasites can also lead to life-threatening dehydration.
4. Skin Problems
Many types of parasites can also cause skin problems in pets, such as hair loss, itching, and rashes. For example, the Demodex mite is a common parasite that affects dogs. These mites live in the skin’s hair follicles and sebaceous glands, causing irritation and inflammation.
If left untreated, Demodex mites can cause serious skin infections that may require veterinary treatment.
Intestinal parasites can also cause malnutrition in pets. This is because the parasites compete with their host for food, robbing them of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. As a result, your pet may become underweight and malnourished. They may also have poor coat quality and suffer from hair loss.
6. Weight Loss
Another common effect of parasites on pets is weight loss. Many parasites can cause pets to lose their appetite, leading to weight loss. In some cases, weight loss caused by parasites can be severe and even life-threatening.
Puppies and kittens are especially vulnerable to the effects of parasites. Their immune systems are not fully developed, making them more susceptible to infection. So you must have your pet vaccinated as soon as possible.
7. Gastrointestinal Issues
Intestinal parasites can cause various gastrointestinal issues in pets, including diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. In some cases, these parasites can also cause life-threatening dehydration.
8. Liver Disease
Many parasites can also affect the liver, causing problems such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. For example, the liver fluke is a parasitic worm affecting sheep and cattle. If left untreated, it can cause severe liver damage and even death.
The Bottom Line
Parasites can have a serious impact on your pet’s health. So, taking them to a veterinarian for a check-up is vital if you think they may be infected. Also, prevention is better than cure, so ensure your pet is up-to-date on their vaccinations.
While doing everything you can to avoid parasites, you should not forget other vet needs to maintain your pet’s overall health. Dental health (see this dog and cat dentist in McAllen if you’re nearby), for example, is also important to their quality of life. As they age, you should also consider getting pet insurance to help with medical bills that will inevitably come up.