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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.

Roundworms are the culprit. These critters have already adapted to migrating in the normal host from the gut to the blood to the lungs and back to the gut. They get in the wrong species and then the GPS gets all messed up, they never get to the gut to be adults and shed new eggs. They will wander to the organs (viscera) or eyes and stay there.

The wrong host is not happy, the worms aren’t happy, so no end of trouble happens when the immune system wants to expel the interlopers. The regular hosts have been putting up with these freeloaders for so long that their immune systems don’t care so much, which is why so many of our pets are asymptomatic until the worm burden is huge. Hookworms have the same migration issue, but they tend to get lost in the skin, and one of them actually infects through the skin, not the oral route.

We can’t prevent all the other critters from getting into your yard. Nor can we deworm them, amusing as that would be to see. But we can control your own pet’s parasites. And it’s a good bet that if they have them, they are going to keep shedding them on your property all the time.

Other animals migrate around to where the food is. Your pet stays put, presumably in part due to your providing room and board, and keeps shedding over and over again on the same property. He or she may not have been the original culprit, but may actually become the main shedder in your locale. A monthly heartworm preventative controls these parasites, not just the heartworms carried by mosquitoes.

Call us at (610) 346-7854 to find out which parasite preventatives are right for your pet. Do it for your pets, your family…and the rest of us, because it’s all one big petri dish out there!

Dr. Brian G'Sullivan has been practicing veterinary medicine in eastern Pennsylvania since 1997. He is a graduate of Syracuse University and earned his DVM degree from the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine.