An important aspect of preventative care for your cat or dog throughout their life is appropriate parasite control. Through adequate prevention you can prevent a number of health concerns for both pets and humans. Not only can the parasite themselves cause issues for your pet, but they can also carry and transmit diseases such as Lyme disease.
Your veterinarian will be able to best advise what kind of parasite control is most appropriate for your pet based on their age, lifestyle, the season and the region where you live. The current risk for various types of parasites varies depending on where you live, but with warming temperatures and increased travel the endemic areas for some parasites are changing. Even if your pet is strictly an indoor animal, proper prevention is still recommended as other animals or humans can bring parasites inside.
Some of the major categories of parasites that we generally provide preventatives or treatment for include roundworms, tapeworms, fleas, ticks, lice and mites. Of these categories, roundworms, tapeworms and ticks can also cause issues for human health. Some recommendations for keeping you and your family healthy in this regard include having your pet on a good parasite control program, regular handwashing, prompt disposal of pet feces, wearing gloves while gardening, covering sandboxes when not in use and limiting interactions between pets and wildlife. In Alberta due to the risk to human health from tick bites, there is a free program where your veterinarian can submit ticks found on pets for testing for the bacteria which causes Lyme disease. If you find a tick on your pet, please contact your veterinarian to arrange to have the tick tested.
Puppies and kittens are often dewormed multiple times in the first few months of life. There are various reasons for this, including that they are at a greater risk for infection and exposure through transmission from their parents and more generally due to their still-developing immune systems. Additionally it is done to ensure that full eradication of the parasites is achieved by eliminating all life stages of the parasite. Following those initial rounds of deworming it is likely that your pet will primarily need preventatives for external parasites each year during the spring, summer and fall. Aside from that, depending on your pet's risk level, they may also need regular internal parasite prevention, but this schedule should be discussed with your vet to decide what is necessary.
Fortunately, there are very good products currently to provide great protection and prevention for your pets when it comes to parasite control. Make sure to discuss preventative measures with your veterinary healthcare team at your annual wellness exams, or as needed to provide your pet the best care possible.
Beck, K., Conboy, G., Gilleard, J., et al. (2009) Canadian Guidelines for the Treatment of Parasites in Dogs and Cats. Canadian Parasitology Expert Panel.