seal  Purdue News

May 25, 2004

Spring brings insects and parasites dangerous to pets

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Warm weather and longer days make outdoor activities inviting to pet owners and their four-legged, furry charges. Spring also heralds the return of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks that carry parasites dangerous to pets and, sometimes, humans.

Dr. Steven Thompson, director of Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine's Pet Wellness Clinic, said dog and cat owners should remember to protect their pets against seasonal insects that can carry parasites and diseases like heartworms and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

"Dogs may bring disease-carrying ticks into the household even though they can't transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease directly," Thompson said.

A variety of ticks can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis (a bleeding disorder), three diseases that are dangerous to dogs and humans. There are several types of Ehrlichiosis, including one that only humans can contract and one that only dogs can get.

Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus and heartworms. West Nile virus, although a concern for horses and people, is not a concern for dogs and cats. Many heartworm preventives now available will prevent intestinal parasite problems, and a couple can even limit tick and flea problems.

"The treatment for heartworms is very hard on an animal and can be fatal," Thompson said. "Prevention is the best treatment."

Thompson said cats also should be protected against heartworm exposure.

"Many people do not realize that cats can also become infected with heartworms," said Saralyn Sharp, Wellness Clinic technologist. "But 16 percent of cats tested in the Lafayette, Ind., area test positive for heartworms."

Mosquitoes flourish through summer and into fall, and can emerge even after the regular season when the weather is warm.

The best treatment for diseases carried by insects is prevention. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on the best form of prevention for your pet.

Writer: Reni Winter, (765) 496-3133,

Sources: Steve Thompson, (765) 494-1107,

Saralyn Sharp, (765) 494-1107,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Related Web site:
Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine Pet Wellness Clinic

Related release:
Feline heartworms more deadly, difficult to treat

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