Veterinary Blog

Got Parasites? We Hope Not!


Let’s talk about parasites. They aren’t a topic most people want to even think about, much less discuss, but as a pet owner, you have a responsibility to protect your pet from these troublesome and potentially dangerous creatures. Plus, these parasites can make people sick as well.

May is Parasite Control Month here at Vedder Mountain Veterinary Clinic. To help keep your pet and whole family protected, we’re offering 10% off flea and tick control products all through May.

Many parasites, including fleas and intestinal worms, can pose a risk year-round in Chilliwack, and a tiny tapeworm is putting pet owners throughout British Columbia at risk for a nasty infection.

Infuriating Fleas

The most common external parasite of cats and dogs, fleas can multiply quickly once they find a pet to feast on. These blood-sucking creatures are capable of laying up to 50 eggs a day, so it doesn’t take long to get an infestation in your home.

Getting rid of a flea infestation can be extremely frustrating and time-consuming. Adult fleas are only the tip of the infestation problem. Eggs, larvae, and pupae (the cocoon stage) tend to stay hidden in carpets, furniture, and cracks in the floor. Insecticides don’t kill fleas in cocoons, and several rounds of treatment are almost always needed to destroy all the fleas.

Besides infestations, fleas can cause life-threatening anemia, especially in kittens and puppies. Fleas are also responsible for flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) in pets. Even if you can’t see fleas, FAD can make pets miserable, causing itchy skin, hair loss, and skin inflammation.

It only takes a few flea bites to cause FAD in some dogs and cats.

Cats and dogs can also get tapeworms if they swallow an infected flea. So can humans (usually children). And fleas will bite people too, especially if you have a really bad infestation in your home. Fleas carry bacteria that can cause cat scratch disease and other illnesses in humans.

Troubling Ticks

The ticks we have in British Columbia can transmit several serious diseases to both pets and people, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia. Some of these diseases aren’t yet common in Canada, but they can be spread from ticks during travel to endemic areas (such as those in the United States where the diseases are common).

Western black-legged ticks, which carry Lyme disease, are believed to be present throughout British Columbia.

In both pets and people (particularly children), ticks can also cause tick paralysis, a serious, potentially deadly condition in which the nervous system is attacked by a toxin in the tick’s saliva.

Worrisome Worms

Roundworms and hookworms are another threat to dogs and cats in the Chilliwack area. These worms live in the intestines of pets and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and changes in appetite, especially in young pets and those with a large number of worms.

Infected puppies and kittens may also fail to grow properly or appear potbellied, and pets with hookworms can end up with anemia as well. However, many adult cats and dogs with intestinal parasite infections don’t show signs of illness.

Roundworms and hookworms can also infect people, potentially causing respiratory issues, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and weight loss.

Mosquito-transmitted heartworms are found every year in dogs in Chilliwack and nearby areas, particularly the Okanagan. Dogs who have travelled to parts of the US that have heartworms are becoming infected and bringing them back to our area. In addition, heartworm disease has been diagnosed in dogs with no history of travel outside our area.

Heartworm disease can cause lasting health problems in pets and can be deadly. Heartworm disease is also difficult to treat. In fact, no approved treatment exists for cats with heartworm infection.

Alarming Tapeworms

Quite small compared to other tapeworms, Echinococcus multilocularis doesn’t get longer than 1 centimetre (other tapeworms that infect pets can grow up to 70 centimetres in length). E. multilocularis infects the intestinal tract of wild canids, like foxes and coyotes, but this parasite can infect domestic dogs (and occasionally cats) as well.

Pets who eat rodents or feces are at risk for E. multilocularis infection, but these intestinal tapeworms don’t tend to cause symptoms in dogs or cats. The real concern is the tapeworm eggs that are expelled from infected wild animals or pets. When people accidentally ingest these eggs from contaminated soil or feces, they can develop an infection called “alveolar echinococcosis” or AE. This infection causes tumour-like cysts to form in the liver and lungs. Dogs can get AE too, but canine infection is rare.

Fortunately, AE remains rare in people as well. However, it can cause severe disease, making tapeworm prevention in pets essential.

Hunters and young children are at particularly high risk for exposure to this tapeworm’s eggs. But considering the numbers of coyotes that roam in more urban areas around Chilliwack, more people may also have a chance of becoming infected.

Most people won’t show any signs of AE infection until 5 to 15 years later. At that point, the cysts are often extremely tough to treat, requiring surgery and possibly chemotherapy. AE can be fatal.

Keep These Parasites Away!

Being proactive is the best way to help keep your pet and your entire family safe from these nasty parasites, which can cause serious, potentially lasting illness in dogs, cats, and people. That’s why at Vedder Mountain Veterinary Clinic, we recommend year-round parasite control for all of our patients.

Call us today to make sure your pet is up-to-date on necessary parasite control medication or to get a refill. Don’t delay! Take advantage of our 10% off on parasite control medications, only through the end of May.

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