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Old Man Winter is on the way out after a mediocre performance in general, but Happy Spring anyway!

dog parasitesNow it is the time to talk parasites. At least, that’s when we all think more about it. These critters are bad actors. Not bad actors like Tom Green or Madonna, but bad actors in that they perform bad acts. They either are a disease or transmit disease.

And it’s not just about our furry friends, folks. Humans are at risk too, especially children who like to dispense with handwashing after making mud pies, or like to experience the full range of what the outside can offer their mouths. Right now I’m going to focus on some microscopic critters, because fleas and ticks just aren’t disgusting enough.

Parasites have their species preferences for completing their life cycles. Some are so picky, that if they get into the wrong host, they don’t complete the life cycle, but get lost in the dead end host in a process called aberrant migration. This will happen in many species. The main thing for us is visceral larval migrans and ocular larval migrans.

Dog and cat eating

Many of us struggle to find the right food for our dog or cat. Do we believe everything we hear? Do we go with the latest pet food trends or stick to traditional food? The questions are endless. 

Who oversees pet food production?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) are the people in charge of regulating production, labeling, distribution and sale of pet food. They are also the people who establish canine and feline nutrient profiles. One these profiles is one of the most important pieces of information called the Nutritional Adequacy Statement that reads as follows:

Feline Food: "[This food] is formulated to meet the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for all stages of a cat's life."

Canine Food: "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [this food] provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs."

How to pick a food manufacturer

It's important to pick a food manufacturer with nutritionists, research & development, their own manufacturing plants, and those who have internal quality control standards. This helps to ensure that your pet is getting the best and safest diet possible. You also want a well-known, reputable company Purina, Hill’s, Royal Canin, Nutro, Blue Buffalo, Merrick, Wellness, or Canidae.

The American Heartworm Association has deemed April as Heartworm Awareness Month in hopes to educate pet owners about the importance of year-round heartworm prevention and annual testing.

MosquitoHeartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm that lives in the pulmonary artery as well as the right side of the heart. It is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats and other species of mammals, including wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions and even humans.

The disease is caused by a nematode (roundworm) called Dirofilaria immitis. All ages and breeds of dogs AND cats are susceptible to heartworm disease, which is found in all 50 states with the warmer southern states being more endemic. The route of infection is through the bite of a mosquito.

Lifecycle of Heartworm

The lifecycle of heartworm is slightly complex but important in understanding heartworm testing and prevention. Adult female heartworms release their larva called microfilaria into the animal's bloodstream, which is then ingested by a mosquito during a blood meal. The larva then takes about 2-3 weeks to mature inside of the mosquito to the infective state called L3. It can then be transmitted to a dog or cat through the bite wound of a mosquito where it matures in the tissue for about 2 months. Once mature, the adult heartworm migrates to the right side of the heart and pulmonary arteries. In dogs, the adult heartworm can live up to 7 years.