Keep Pets Parasite Free this Summer

When the school bell rings for the last time, many children have furry friends eagerly awaiting summertime outdoor adventures. Proper veterinary care and good hygiene can help keep pets and kids parasite-free.

“As we spend time outdoors, we expose ourselves to fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and internal parasites, such as hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms more frequently,” said Dr. Jody Ray, assistant clinical professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University.

Ray said as children play outside, they can contract parasites from contaminated soil.

“Infected animals that defecate on the beach or in the sandbox can leave behind parasites that can burrow into the skin or be ingested when a child eats dirt or gets sand in his or her mouth,” he said. “These intestinal parasites are easily controlled with most monthly heartworm preventives.”

Ray said children are at a higher risk for contracting zoonotic diseases — those that can be transmitted from animals to humans — because of their play habits and love for pets.

Giardiasis is a common parasitic disease with higher infection rates in the summer.

“It is spread by ingesting food or water contaminated by defecation from an infected animal or person – so campers, people who swim in ponds or kiddie pools accessible to animals, travelers and child-care workers are at a higher risk,” he said.

Ray said families can take several precautions against zoonotic diseases.

“Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them,” he said. “Cover the sand box when it is not in use. Remove feces from the home and backyard, and use proper hygiene when handling it. Wash hands properly. Do not allow pets to roam freely because they can come into contact with infected animals. In some areas, keep your pets on heartworm prevention as well as flea and tick control every 30 days year-round.

“Use insect repellant liberally when in flea- or tick-infested areas. Shower thoroughly and check for ticks after being outside. Keep grass cut short for better flea control,” he said.

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