What is All the Fuss About?

Every year, about this time, the word parasite rises to the top of discussions in my practice. Although we discuss the dangers of parasites year-round, the coming spring and long summer makes our region a high-risk parasite area for our pets. So why do I care so much? Why should you?

The next couple of weeks will be a parasite based series, but this week, I want to go over a few of the facts and numbers that make people’s eyes “bug”. Data used in this article comes directly from the Companion Animal Parasite Council whose focus is to track, monitor and predict parasites and parasitic diseases in our pets in the United States and Canada.

  1. Hookworms and roundworms (the most common pet intestinal parasites) can be very dangerous to people, especially children! Kansas is in the moderate to high risk zone for hookworms with 1 in 38 dogs affected in the US.
  2. Kansas is in the moderate to high risk zone for roundworms (cats and dogs) with 1 in 54 dogs affected in the US.
  3. Heartworm disease is on the rise in Kansas! Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos, has no outward signs until the late disease stages and affects BOTH cats and dogs. Kansas is in the SECOND highest risk zone (next to the deep south) with 2-4% animals affected.
  4. Giardia, a gastrointestinal protozoal parasite that can be dangerous for your pets and you, is very prevalent in Kansas. Kansas is listed in the moderate to highest risk zones with 1 in 32 cats affected and 1 in 16 dogs affected.
  5. Ehrlichiosis, a dangerous blood parasite that effects people and pets, is transmitted by ticks and is on the rise in Kansas as well. 1 in 22 dogs in Kansas are affected with diagnosed cases as close as Ellis county.

Scary, right? It is this information that drives my daily conversations and has changed so many of our protocols to take better care of our patients. These diseases are easily prevented with high quality, regular medications. Please, remember, most of these parasites cannot be seen with the naked eye and do not make pets or people noticeably sick until their disease is very severe. Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s best options!

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