Category: Parasites

The “Kissing Bug” Disease

Chagas disease is an infection with a parasitic protozoa called Trypanosoma cruzi. An insect that carries the protozoa in called a triatomine bug, commonly found in our area.

chagas
The triatomine bug is nocturnal and comes out at night to feast on the blood out of their sleeping victims, which includes humans and animals both. The bug typically feeds around the eyes or mouth (hence the name, the “kissing bug”). At the time of feeding, the bug defecates on the skin, releasing the parasite in its feces. The feces enters the skin through the bite or through mucous membranes.

Chagas can be life-threatening if left untreated, but treatment for Chagas is most effective in the early stages of the disease. Symptoms include fever and swelling where the bite took place. If left untreated, the infection can lead to complications with the heart, esophagus, and colon. Contact your health provider if you think you might infected or at risk.Tcruzi_thin_giemsa5_zoom

Alternate ways of infection:

  • Congenital transmission (pregnant mother to baby)
  • Blood transfusion/Organ transplantation
  • Accidental lab exposure
  • Consumption of uncooked food or drinks contaminated with feces from infected bugs

Three-Triatoma-TX-smWho is at risk:

  • People living in substandard housing
  • Animals living in/People who have animals living in collective animal housing (henhouse, stables)

Prevention:

  • Do NOT touch the bug with bare, uncovered hands
  • Any surfaces that come into contact with the bug can be disinfected with bleach or other common household disinfectants
  • Insecticides can be used in the house and yard to target these bugs
  • Screening blood donations for the disease

More information can be found online at:
http://www.kissingbug.tamu.edu/found-a-bug
http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas

Life-cycle-of-Trypanosoma-cruzi-An-infected-triatome-vector-or-kissing-bug-takes-a

By: Madison Cole

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Ew! What is that in my dog’s stool?!

Oh no! It looks like your pet may have some kind of intestinal parasite!

parasites2Intestinal parasites are parasites that live inside a host’s gastrointestinal tract. Some feed off of the nutrients that the host ingests while others ingest the host’s blood. Whatever their food of choice may be, they can cause numerous issues for the host.

Examples of common intestinal parasites:
-Roundworms
-Whipworms
-Hookworms
-Tapeworms
Giardia
-Coccidia

While some parasites are large enough to see with the naked eye, this is not the case for all of them. For example, tape worms break apart and are usually passed as segments which can look like small grains of rice in your pet’s stool. Round worms resemble noodles or string. Others are much, much smaller and you may not physically see them in your pet’s stool. These parasites can cause all sorts of issues for your pet.

Symptoms include:
-Vomiting
-Weight loss
-Diarrhea
-Distended abdomen
-Scooting
-Occasionally coughing
-Anemia

How do cats and dogs get intestinal parasites?
Parasites are usually transmitted when an animal inadvertently ingests parasite eggs or spores in contaminated soil, water, feces or food. In the case of tapeworms, they can also be transmitted when a dog eats an infected flea. Puppies and kittens, on the other hand, usually get intestinal parasites from their mother. Transmission can occur in uterus or from nursing.
parasites
Many intestinal parasites are zoonotic, meaning that they can also infect humans. Simply practicing good hygiene is usually enough to prevent this from happening. You should always remove your pet’s stool from the yard and be sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards. The same goes for your cat’s litter box. Wearing shoes while outside can help protect you against hookworms.

Diagnosing and Treatment:
But don’t worry – these pesky parasites are easily treated! There are many types of dewormers available. Some parasites can be seen in the stool, such as tapeworm segments or roundworms. Others are much, much smaller and harder to detect. Here at TLC Animal Hospital, we send your pet’s stool to an outside lab for thorough testing to identify which parasites are present to ensure that the correct dewormer is used to treat any and all parasites that your pet may have. Some dewormers require a second dose that is given a few weeks later to ensure that all of the parasites are gone. Depending on the parasite, repeat testing of your pet’s stool may be needed as well once treatment is done.

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Prevention:
10765_001_xxlWhile there is, unfortunately, no way to 100% prevent against intestinal parasites, there are steps that you can take that will drastically reduce the chance of your pet becoming infected. Most monthly heartworm preventatives also contain a broad spectrum dewormer. This helps get rid of any eggs or larvae that your pet may have picked up during the previous month. Picking up after your pet helps reduce the chance of any eggs or larvae from getting into the soil.

The best way to prevent against tapeworms is to use a monthly flea preventative. Having your yard treated by an exterminator for fleas will also help. The less fleas there are in the environment, the less of a chance your pet has of eating an infected flea. As we’ve written about before, every pet should be on a monthly flea preventative, even if they are strictly indoors. Read more about the flea preventatives that we offer in our previous post to help you decide which preventative is the best for your pet’s lifestyle.

puppy_kitten_careIf your pet is not already on monthly parasite preventatives, take them to your veterinarian to discuss how you can protect your pets and family from intestinal parasites.

Remember that the best way to protect your pets against parasites is to keep them on parasite preventatives and have their stool checked at least once a year. If you have any questions or concerns, you should always contact your veterinarian. They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

By: Pigeon Tyler and Ashley Elliott

What in the world is Giardia?

giardia-trph1Giardia is a single-celled microscopic parasite that lives in your dog’s intestine. It is classified as an intestinal infection cause by the parasite Giardia Iamblia. The infection commonly infects older dogs, but more frequently infects young puppies.

Eww! How do dogs get Giardia?

Dogs develop the infection by ingesting the offspring of Giardia that are shed in another animal’s feces. Dogs become infected when they accidentally swallow the water source, or by eating something that has been contaminated by feces, like grass. Since dogs love to put things in their mouths, this means that there are plenty of ways your dog can pick up the parasite in his environment. Whether it is by chewing on a stick, eating someone else’s poop, or drinking from a puddle.

giardia_process

How will Giardia affect my dog?irie-lakeWEB

Giardia in dogs does not always cause problems, but when it does it is highly unpleasant. Giardiasis, the disease caused by the Giardia infection, typically results in diarrhea. The parasite inhibits your dog’s ability to properly absorb nutrient, water, and electrolytes, which leads to weight loss, poor conditions, and even can lead to death. If you have concerns about your dog after spending a fun weekend at the beach, contact your Veterinarian to schedule an appointment.

Treatment is simple once diagnosed. This is one of the many reasons why fecal parasite screening is so important, along with semi-annual Veterinary exams for your pet. If your pet was diagnosed with Giardia, or any other type of intestinal parasite, be sure to clean up after them as soon as possible. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands as well after handling their stool. Preventative care is always the best way to avoid parasites and diseases!

By: Kimberly Delaney

Feline Heartworm Disease

cat-confusedWhile cats are not natural hosts for heartworms, they are still at risk for contracting them. Just like with dogs, heartworms are contracted through mosquito bites. As we’ve mentioned before, we’re in prime mosquito territory. In areas that have mosquitoes, an incidence of 2-14% exist in cats.

Feline Heartworm Disease causes severe lung disease, heart failure, along with damage to other organs. Adult heartworms can grow to be 12 inches long. Cats will typically only have 1-3 adult worms, but they can have up to 6. It only takes 1-3 adult heartworms to cause the cat to collapse and die.

mosquito-illustration_2092x1660Cats are not natural hosts for heartworms. Their immune system is very reactive against heartworms and this makes it next to impossible to detect microfilaria in an infected cat. Microfilaria is the off-spring of adult heartworms born in the host body and found in the blood stream. If a mosquito bites a dog that has microfilaria in their blood stream, they become infected. The mosquito can then transfer the microfilaria to any cats or dogs that they bite next.

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The tests currently available detect an antigen that is given off by mature female heartworms. It takes heartworms 6 months to mature. This is why with dogs, we recommend doing a heartworm test once they’re at least 6 months of age and repeating test in 6 months if there was a lapse in prevention. However with cats, due to the limited number of heartworms that grow to maturity, they can be difficult to detect with these tests.

While heartworms can be treated in dogs, the medication used (Immiticide) is toxic to cats. Unfortunately at this time, there are no treatments available for heartworm positive cats.

revHowever, there is good news! The disease is 100% preventable. Our recommendation is Revolution. Revolution prevents fleas, roundworms, hookworms and ear mites as well as heartworms. Revolution is a topical preventative instead of an oral, making it easier to administer.  If you apply once every 30 days, your cat will not only be flea-free, but they’ll also be protected against heartworms!

Twelve common symptoms of Feline Heartworm Disease are:5625pt1

  1. Coughing
  2. Weight Loss
  3. Lethargy
  4. Gagging
  5. Vomiting
  6. Collapsing
  7. Lack of Appetite
  8. Abnormal Rapid Breathing (Tachypnea)
  9. Difficulty Breathing
  10. Blindness
  11. Convulsions
  12. Sudden Death

Remember – Mosquitos are everywhere! Just because your cat is strictly indoors only doesn’t mean that they aren’t at risk. Every pet should be on both flea and heartworm preventatives year round.

By: Candace Ivey

Concerned about your canine companion? Read about Double Defense here to learn more about heartworms in dogs & the best way to prevent your pup from them.

Creepy Crawly Skin Mites

Is your pet loosing hair on their face/around eyes/mouth/ears for no reason? They might be scratching themselves silly or not at all? It is a possibility that your pet has mange. Luckily, this is a treatable disease.

Kinds of Mange

  • Demodectic Mange “Demodex”
  • Sarcoptic Mange “Scabies”

Demodectic Mange “Demodex” is a mite that is normally found in the hair follicles of all cats and dogs, but can become a health problem when found in excessive amounts. The immune system usually keeps the mite numbers in check. Demodex mites can become excessive if the animal has a compromised immune system (ex. puppies, poor nutrition, stressed animals, parasite infestation, or chronic disease). Demodex is commonly found in young animals (3 months-1 year old) and animals that have had a history of demodex earlier in life. Demodex mites in canines are named Demodex canis and demodex mites in felines are named Demodex cati and Demodex gatoi. There are three different forms of demodex: Localized (isolated spots on body), Generalized (entire body is affected), and Demodectic Pododermatitis (paws are just affected).

Clinical SignsUntitled2

  • Alopecia (hair loss) on face, around eyes, mouth, and ears. If severe case, they can have hair loss on forelegs and trunk too.
    • The mites feed on the hair follicle, which is what makes the hair fall out.
  • Erythema (redness) with crusty patches can be seen. When this is seen it is called “Red Mange”.
  • In severe cases (Generalized Demodex) the animal can have a fever, whole body hair loss, and a secondary skin infection.
  • The most important clinical sign is that the animal is NONPURITIC (not itchy). This helps identify Demodex compared to other mange mites.

Diagnosis

  • Skin scraping. After treatment, the animal should be rechecked twice and have two negative scrapings to verify that treatment is working.
  • Culture if secondary skin infection is present.

Treatment Options

  • Oral treatments
  • Topical treatments
  • Injections
  • Shampoos/Dips
  • Oral antibiotics if secondary skin infection present.
  • In the old days there was a myth that dipping the animal in motor oil was a good home remedy. This is FALSE. Motor oil can cause severe rashes and destroy healthy skin. It can also be absorbed through the skin and cause blood pressure issues. PLEASE – do not dip you animal in motor oil.

Untitled1Prognosis

  • Prognosis is good in localized and pododermatitis forms if proper treatment is followed.
  • The generalized form of Demodex can be fatal because of the severity of infection.
  • Demodex canis and Demodex cati are not contagious to humans and other animals.
  • Demodex gatoi is contagious to other animals and all animals in the household should be treated.
  • It is important to know that treatments will never completely remove the mites. It will just help control them to normal numbers so it does not affect the animal’s skin.
  • Relapse is possible because every mite cannot be killed, but it is more likely to happen if no recheck skin scrapes were preformed. Relapse is common 6-12 months after treatment.
  • Breeders should not use previously infected animals because it can be hereditary.

Prevention

  • There is currently no preventative measures against Demodex. There are a few simple things you can do to avoid it. A healthy immune system can help prevent the recurrence of mange. It’s therefore important to keep your dog on a regular feeding schedule, with lots of water and healthy meals, and plenty of exercise.

Sarcoptic Mange “Scabies” is a mite that burrows into the epidermis and lays eggs. This causes severe itching and inflammation within the skin. Scabies can infest almost all species of haired animals. It is very contagious to other animals and humans by direct contact. Scabies can occur in dogs/cats of any age, sex, or breed. Canine scabies mites are named Sarcoptic scabiei and feline scabies mites are named Notoedres cati.

Clinical Signs

  • Red, crusty lesions on ears, elbows, and trunk of animal.
  • Severely puritic (itchy)
    • This distinguishes it from Demodectic Mange
  • Secondary bacterial skin infections due to self trauma from itching.

Diagnosis

  • Skin scraping
  • Skin biopsies

Treatment Options

  • Oral treatments
  • Topical treatments
  • Injections
  • Shampoos/Dips
  • Antibiotics to control secondary bacterial skin infection
  • Anti-itch medications

Prognosis

  • Prognosis is good if proper treatment is followed and the secondary bacterial infection is not extreme.
  • Animals can remain contagious for 2-4 weeks during treatment.
  • If you see red papules on yourself there is a chance you could have scabies. Contact your physician.

Prevention

  • There is currently no preventative measures against Scabies. There are a few simple things you can do to avoid it. A healthy immune system can help prevent the recurrence of mange. It’s therefore important to keep your dog on a regular feeding schedule, with lots of water and healthy meals, and plenty of exercise. Also avoid contact with infected animals.

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Sources
Brooks, Wendy C. “Demodectic Mange in Dogs.” Demodectic Mange in Dogs – VeterinaryPartner.com, http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=630.

Brooks, Wendy C. “Notoedric Mange.” Notoedric Mange – VeterinaryPartner.com, http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=512.

Brooks, Wendy C. Demodectic Mange in Cats – VeterinaryPartner.com, http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1415.

Brooks, Wendy C. “Sarcoptic Mange (Scabies).” Sarcoptic Mange (Scabies) – VeterinaryPartner.com, http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=616.

“Mange Mites.” Common Diseases of Companion Animals, by Alleice Summers, Elsevier/Mosby, 2014.

By: Jamie McAfee