Posts in Category: zoonotic parasites

Bites and Stings: Insects of Summer

So now that the weather is getting a lot nicer, you want to go outside more, take long walks with your four-legged family members, and have all the outdoor barbecues you can have, right? But what are you going to do about all those pesky insects that try to suck, bite, and sting all the fun out of summer nights? Not only are they a nuisance for you, but they can be just as annoying, and potentially deadly for our pets, too! Read on to learn about some of the various harmful insects, and what you can to combat them and the diseases they can transfer.


Mosquitoes: Passing on Deadly Worms

Mosquito bites are no fun for us, but are even worse for our pets Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.53 PMbecause of something called heartworms. Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes that carry infective larvae, and are a potentially fatal issue for dogs and cats. The heartworm larvae move from the site of the mosquito bite through a host’s body until they reach the heart and lungs. Once they are mature, adult heartworms can get to be 12 inches long, and will cause a significant decrease in blood flow throughout the body. Depending on the severity of the disease, it can possibly lead to death if not taken care of early on.

Heartworm preventatives such as Heartgard, Revolution, and Sentinel are very instrumental in helping before any bite occurs, but getting a heartworm test and treatment at your local AAHA Accredited Veterinary Hospital will absolutely help if your dog or cat already has heartworms. Signs of heartworm disease can include: mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.” These symptoms won’t necessarily show early on in dogs, and in cats they can be very subtle, or very sudden.

Fleas & Ticks: All it Takes is One Bite

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.04 PMFleas: These tiny brown bugs like to hide in cooler, shady areas like shrubs, trees, and under leaves. Despite not having wings, fleas can jump up to two feet high; so when your dog walks by, that’s when they will hop on, latch in, and start feeding on blood. The danger of fleas is that they can bring about tapeworms, skin infections, and other serious diseases. Combating fleas is as easy as using monthly preventatives such as Frontline or Nexgard, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, using a flea comb, and washing your pet’s bedding often.

Ticks: Ticks also like to hang out Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.16 PMin shady, wooded areas, waiting for an unwary host to attach to. Once they are attached, ticks feed on blood (including you), which means they can directly transmit deadly diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and babesiosis from just one bite! You can help deter tick bites by also using monthly preventatives, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, and whenever you are done with your walk make sure to check your dog (and yourself) for any little bumps because it might be a tick!

Bees & Wasps: More than a Sting!

Bee and wasps are a bit easier to avoid because they usually have visible nests and in general they’re the most noticeable bug. If you’ve got a curious pet then you should keep an eye out. Most stings tend to occur on the face or nose because that’s how our pets investigate. They may even get stung in the mouth or throat if they end up catching the bug; and those stings can be dangerous because the poison from the sting can    cScreen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.24.47 PMause the throat to swell. Other severe reactions to look out for include weakness, difficulty breathing and excessive swelling at the sting site. If you see any of these signs you need to go to your veterinarian ASAP. Most of these severe reactions occur with multiple stings, but always give your veterinarian a call and make sure to monitor the reaction to make sure it does not worsen. All cases will be different, so always consult your veterinarian before administering any medication or remedy, such as a weak water/baking soda mixture or an ice pack.

Tips to Decrease Insect Exposure

  • Ask your veterinarian about monthly Flea/Tick preventatives like oral doses, liquid, and collars.

  • Close screened windows/doors when inside so flying bugs don’t come inside.

  • Use bug repellent on yourself, and only pet-safe repellent on your furry friends.

Cited Sources:

American Heartworm Society
ASPCA: Fleas and Ticks
Hill’s Pet

Contributed by:
Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.47.26 PMTeresa Mundy
Boarding Team Member
Social Media Coordinator

Common Diseases You Can Catch From Your Pet

Candid portrait of a natural woman with tattoos and her german shepard mixed dogOur furry friends bring us lots of joy; we cuddle with them and treat them like family. They respond by licking our hands and face and showering us with unconditional love and attention. Close contact with our furry bundles of joy can also unknowingly cause microorganisms to be passed along to us, which can cause zoonotic diseases. A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed between animals and humans. Read on to learn about some of these common zoonotic maladies, and how to safeguard your pet and family from them.

Leptospirosis (Lepto)

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. It can lead to potentially fatal infections of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart. Dogs are most often affected by Lepto. They commonly become infected and develop leptospirosis from exposure to, or drinking from rivers, lakes, or streams.

Humans commonly develop leptospirosis through exposure to the urine or bodily fluids of an infected dog. It’s important that you see your veterinarian so they can recommend vaccines that can effectively protect your dog against many strains of this disease.

Click here for more information on Leptospirosis.

Hookworms & Roundworms

Hookworms can be acquired in puppies and kittens from their mother’s milk. They can then be transmitted to humans from your pet’s feces, or from contaminated soil when walking barefoot. Hookworms live in the small intestine and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and blood loss leading to anemia.

Roundworms are typically acquired by your pet when they eat the infected feces of another animal. They most commonly become transmitted to humans through the ingestion of roundworm eggs from contaminated soil in your garden or backyard.

It’s very important that puppies and kittens be de-wormed as they commonly carry hookworms and/or roundworms. If you suspect your pet has been exposed, you should drop off a stool sample at your local veterinarian for analysis.

Click here for more information on Hookworms.
Click here for more information on Roundworms.

Lyme DiseaseLyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted to humans and pets through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Blacklegged ticks are also known by the name Ixodes Scapularis, and the common name: Deer ticks. Acute Lyme disease causes fever and lethargy. While Lyme disease cannot be spread directly to you from your pet, they can bring infected ticks into your home or yard.  Protect yourself and your pet by asking your veterinarian about tick control products for your pets.

Click here for more information on Preventing Ticks on your Pet.


Giardia is a microscopic parasite that can live in the intestines of animals and humans. It is often transmitted through contaminated water and is one of the most common waterborne diseases in the United States. Common signs and symptoms in both dogs and humans include diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.

Puppies and kittens have a higher risk of illness from Giardia so it is important to not allow them to drink water from areas where other animals may have left their feces. Your veterinarian can test your pet’s feces to see if giardia is present and prescribe a safe, effective treatment for control of the disease.

Click here for more information on Giardia.

Safeguarding Measures You Can Take

Contracting a pet-borne disease requires very close contact with your pet or their excretions, so zoonotic diseases can be avoided with these common sense approaches:

  • Annual Exams! Make sure your pet gets an annual preventative exam by a licensed veterinarian, including a parasite screening test, and is current on all vaccinations.
  • Practice good tick protection! Regularly check for ticks on your pets and the humans around them and ask your veterinarian about tick control products for your pet.
  • Pick up the poop! Keep your environment free of feces. Make sure you have a clean yard and litter box at all times.
  • Cleanliness! Thoroughly wash vegetables from your garden and hands or other exposed skin that come into contact with soil frequented by pets.
  • Fresh, Clean, H20! Avoid drinking improperly treated water.

See Your Veterinarian for Testing & Safe, Effective Treatment

If you suspect that your pet is ill or may be infected take them immediately to an AAHA accredited animal hospital. While information on the internet may provide you with some ideas, only a licensed veterinarian can provide you with an accurate diagnosis.

Additional Resources:



Contributed by:
Eric Conroy, Personnel Manager

Internal Parasites: You Should Know if Your Pet Has Them

Tick-borne disease agents, intestinal parasites, heartworms . . . these hideous pests are just some of the parasites that can infect our pets, inflicting discomfort, pain, and possibly dangerous illness. Parasites are located nearly everywhere in the environment, so there are many different ways your pet can get infected. Something as simple as eating grass or licking paws after a walk outdoors poses a potential risk of your pet picking up a parasite. So what do you do? Prevention is key.

How Pets Get Infected

Dogs, cats, and other mammals can be exposed to parasites in various ways, starting at birth. These are just some of the most common sources of exposure:

  • Puppies can be infected from their mother during pregnancy or nursing.
  • Parasite eggs present in soil can get into our homes on the soles of our shoes.
  • Potting soil purchased for indoor plants can host parasite eggs.
  • Cats and dogs can contract parasites from ingesting rodents, fleas, or other insects.

Parasites such as the worms that infect dogs—including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms—live in the intestines, so that’s the first place your vet will look for them. They only shed eggs intermittently, so pets with parasites can have a “healthy” stool sample that doesn’t reveal any evidence of parasites. If left unchecked, parasites can stay undetected for a long time. It is crucial to test for parasites at least once a year and to give your pet a monthly heartworm preventive that also treats and controls intestinal parasites. Puppies and kittens should always be dewormed.

Symptoms of Infection

It is very important to know whether any of your pets may be carrying parasites. This is not only to avoid illness in your pet, but also to avoid transmission to family members. As carriers of zoonotic disease (disease that can be passed to humans from animals), parasites can cause serious problems in people, such as blindness—especially in children (roundworms), and migration under the skin (hookworms). Below are some of the symptoms to look out for in your pet:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss
  • coughing
  • anemia

Heartworm Disease

Heartworms are a type of internal parasite that lives in the major blood vessels of the lungs. Their name comes from the fact that in severe cases they can migrate to the heart. Heartworms are transmitted to animals by mosquitoes, making heartworm disease endemic in this area (it is always present in our local environment due to our climate and wildlife). Dogs are especially at risk because they frequently encounter mosquitoes outdoors, but animals that stay inside (inside cats and dogs) can also be infected. As most of us know from our own experience, mosquitoes can easily get inside our homes. Currently, there is no feline heartworm treatment available, and treatment in dogs can be quite costly. Heartworms are fatal if not detected before they enter the advanced stages of the disease.

Treatment and Prevention

In the case of many kinds of worms, treatment is given orally (by mouth) or in a shot. Many of these drugs are considered “broad-spectrum” because they’re effective in treating a wide range of parasites, including worms that live in the gut. This is the case for many monthly heartworm preventatives, which contain medication that helps prevent the more common intestinal parasites. Keeping your environment free of dirt, feces, and vermin is another important step in prevention parasites from affecting you and you pets. Standing water outside your home (such as in a bird bath) can attract mosquitoes to come lay their eggs, so eliminating those sources is important.

All pets are at risk of exposure to internal parasites, but there are measures we can take to help protect them, and us. Contact your veterinarian to discuss an individualized parasite prevention program tailored to your own pet’s needs.

More Information:

Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC):

CAPC brochure:

Cesar Milan:

CAH Blog: Parasites: The Hidden Intruders

Centers for Disease Control:


Contributed by Dr. Marsha Pollock, DVM


Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention During Winter


It’s cold and there’s snow outside, so who’s thinking about fleas, ticks, and heartworms? Well, it might be cold now, but remember a couple of weeks ago when the temperature was in the 60s and you let your pets outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine . . .

The fact of it is, dogs and cats can get fleas, ticks, and heartworms almost any time of year in our area, so treatment shouldn’t be seasonal; it should be maintained all year round. Read on to learn more about how these pests survive the cold and why your pet should be treated year-round.


shutterstock_64863352While ideal temperatures for the growth and reproduction of fleas range between 65 and 80 degrees, flea pupae can remain dormant for over a year—cocooned until their surroundings have reached ideal temperatures. As long as an adult flea can find a suitable host to feed from, it can stay warm and healthy throughout the entire cold season. The flea can even survive temperatures in the upper 30s. Anyone who has had a pet with fleas knows that they are not just very unpleasant invaders, but can be very difficult to eliminate once they have established themselves in your home.


shutterstock_206365657Like fleas, ticks are capable of surviving winter temperatures if they can find a suitable host to feed on and use for warmth (i.e., you or your pets). In fact, ticks can comfortably live in temperatures hovering around 45 degrees. Just like for humans, the biggest threat for our pets when it comes to ticks are the diseases they spread, such as Lyme disease. In the Northeast, warmer spring temperatures are leading to an earlier emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new regions. See the map below. You can also read more about this at



Heartworms live inside a host animal, regardless of the season or temperature. There they mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. Left untreated, their numbers can increase to as many as several hundred in a single animal’s body. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the animal’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. It can take up to 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected, so prevention is key. You can read more about the affects of heartworm disease on your pet here.


In an area like ours, where the weather can change from one day to the next, your best bet is to continue monthly treatment for your pet all year round. For fleas and ticks there are a number of different treatments available. While it is hard to make a recommendation that fits all situations, we have seen very good results from the newer-generation oral (taken by mouth) products such as NexGard®. One benefit of orally administered products is that they do not get degraded by bathing or swimming, are much safer in households with young children, and have new active ingredients that fleas and ticks are not yet resistant to.

Heartworm preventatives, such as Heartgard®, Sentinel®, and Revolution® are very effective at preventing heartworms and also treat and prevent some intestinal parasitic diseases like hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm. Each preventative has its own advantages, so we look at each patient’s health and individual risk factors to determine which preventative we recommend.

About Pet Medications

Don’t forget to discuss preventatives with your veterinarian at your pet’s next annual physical, or make an appointment now — before the weather really warms up — to discuss flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Some veterinarians and animal hospitals allow you to re-order regular medications using an online pharmacy, as we do at Centreville Animal Hospital. In addition to ordering convenience, these sites often offer coupons and specials.

Additional Resources:







Contributed by Zach Buchanan, Veterinary Assistant

Parasites: The Hidden Intruders


Most of our pets currently have, have had, or will have internal parasites at some point in their lives. A parasite is an organism that lives on or inside a host and gets its food from or at the expense of its host. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Don’t worry—your pet won’t die from internal parasites. In fact, most pets do not show any symptoms at all. But those parasites can affect you, so learn what the symptoms and causes are so you can protect yourself and your family from infection.

roundwormbellyUnfortunately, clinical signs of parasites become evident only when they are present in large numbers. The most common signs of internal parasites are vomiting and diarrhea, and they may appear in pets that are otherwise normal. Puppies and kittens also may get a “pot belly” (enlarged abdomen) due to a large number of parasites.

Puppies, kittens, and stray animals are most at risk because parasites can be transmitted through a mother’s milk during nursing. Infection also occurs when an animal ingests the eggs or larvae (microscopic worms) in the feces of another animal, in a water source, or in the environment itself, such as grass or bare dirt in a dog park. This can happen various ways, such as licking paws after stepping in feces or dirt that is infected.


Image Source:

Most parasites have a favorite species and stick to it—dogs get dog parasites, cats get cat parasites—but sometimes parasites do not end up in the right host, like when a human gets a dog or cat parasite. These are called zoonotic parasites. The potential for contracting a parasite is very low in the United States, but it is a greater threat in third world countries. Below is a list of those and how they can be contracted.

Parasites Transmitted through Food

  • Trichinella—by eating undercooked beef and pork
  • Baylisascaris—by eating something that has come in contact with raccoon feces

Parasites You Can Get from Your Pet

  • Giardia—from dogs and cats that ingest a contaminated water source
  • Tapeworms—from ingesting a flea that is caring a tapeworm larva, the same way your dog or cat does
  • imagesRoundworms—from dogs and cats that ingest fecal material; a roundworm larva ingested by a human can migrate out of the intestinal tract and end up in any organ or the eyes, potentially causing major problems
  • Toxoplasmosis—from infected cat fecal material, or infected dirt (after gardening do not eat until you have washed your hands)

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN: This parasite can cause severe birth defects to your baby. If at all possible, do not clean the litter box. If you must do it yourself, wear rubber gloves and clean it daily because the eggs hatch and become infectious to humans 1-5 days after the cat has shed them.

  • Hookworms—from ingested fecal material; once the eggs hatch outside a host, such as in the dirt, they can bury into the skin causing discomfort but not any disease (typically you notice a red squiggly line that goes away in 2-3 days)
  • Cryptosporidium—by drinking from a contaminated water source (either human or pet)

Keep Your Family Safe from Parasites

  • Make sure your pet is under a veterinarian’s care and gets a fecal test every 6 months (even your indoor cat)
  • Practice the Four Ps: Pick up Pet Poop Promptly, and dispose of it properly. Be sure to wash your hands after handling pet waste.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching animals, and avoid contact with animal feces
  • Follow proper food-handling procedures to reduce the risk of transmission from contaminated food
  • For people with weakened immune systems, be especially careful of contact with animals that could transmit these infections

Veterinary care for internal parasites includes testing and prescribing the correct medication to be given at home. Since parasites are living organisms, medications generally have to be given in two or more courses, each 2-3 weeks apart, to catch any parasites that hatched after the first course was given. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect a parasite infestation in your pet.


Puppy Photo:

Centers for Disease Control:


Contributed by Elisa Miller, LVT

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