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Keep Pets Parasite-Free For Their Health… and Yours

dogAs pet owners, we receive much from our best friends: unconditional love, devoted attention and, occasionally, parasites.

When pets become infested with fleas, ticks or worms, we can be infested, too. The good news is that modern pest control products are safe and effective, and, when used properly, can help. "The perfect flea and tick control product has not yet been invented," says Dr. William Fortney, assistant professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University. "But there are a number of options available."

Keeping ticks under control
Perhaps the hardiest of the external parasites is the tick, which, despite its small size, can transmit big diseases, including Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Daily examination and tick removal are essential if your pet spends anytime outdoors, investigating shrubs or plantings. Ticks are most likely to be found in the neck area, between the toes, in the ears, and in the folds between the legs and the body. If you spot a tick on your pet or yourself, remove the tick by grasping the mouth parts with tweezers and pulling the tick straight away from the body.

Products like Frontline Plus are an effective control where pets aren’t exposed to a lot of ticks. For dogs exposed to heavy tick populations, however, Dr. Fortney recommends combining the Frontline with a product such as Kiltix or BioSpot.

Get rid of fleas
Look carefully at your pet’s skin and hair coat. If you see tiny black pepper-like specks (these are actually flea droppings or "flea dirt"), you know your pet has fleas. Besides causing itch and irritation, ticks and fleas can transmit tapeworms and other diseases, so it’s important to act immediately.

According to Dr. Michael W. Dryden, professor of parasitology at Kansas State University, the flea treatments available today do an excellent job of eliminating existing fleas. However, reinfestation is a common occurrence. It will do little good to rid the pet’s body of fleas if you don’t simultaneously clean their bed and any furnishings where they sleep or spend time.

A good way to reduce flea populations in the home is simply by vacuuming. One pass with a vacuum can remove 50 percent of the flea eggs there. Sprinkle some flea powder on the carpet before vacuuming and sweep that up. The flea powder will kill any fleas that hatch from eggs you have vacuumed.

Of course, preventing fleas in the first place is the better option. The vets at K-State’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital recommend Frontline Plus, Advantage or Revolution. These products are available for both dogs and cats.

Foil the worms
If a pet is appears to be infested with worms, it’s important to check with your veterinarian. Different internal parasites require treatment with the different medications. Taking a fecal sample to the vet is the best way to diagnose the problem.

To prevent heartworms, hookworms and round worms, the K-State veterinarians suggest Heartguard Plus or Interceptor for dogs, and Revolution for cats.

Humans can also get worms if they are exposed to worm eggs, according to the K-State vets. Immature hookworm larvae can penetrate the skin or enter through existing wounds on the skin. With roundworms, people can be infected by accidental ingestion of the eggs.

Prevention includes washing hands and practicing good hygiene, wearing shoes when working or playing outdoors and wearing gloves when working in the garden. Covering sandboxes to avoid contamination is also recommended.

For more on pets and parasites, visit www.avma.org/careforanimals or www.healthypet.com or www.vet.ksu.edu.