We adore our pets. In return they accept and love us for who we are, even if we’ve had a bad day at the office, not put on the right eyeliner, are hours late to feed them or are distracted with other thoughts when they want our attention.
Humans are exceptionally good at looking after their pets when there’s something wrong with them. Or at least we think we are. The trouble is that, even with the animals best interests at heart, pet owners too often rush to the vet for minor ailments and the resultant treatment could be the proverbial sledgehammer cracking a nut. In most cases preventive treatment would considerably cut down on a number of unnecessary health scares every year.
The first thing you need to have a look at is the food you are giving your pet, because many pet foods manufacturers use unpardonable ingredients as filler. Most household cats are fed on only dried pellets but when did you last see cats in the wild foraging for dried foods?
Parasites in animals
All animals have internal and external parasites. Internal parasites live in the intestines, bloodstream, joints muscle tissue and the brain. External parasites such as fleas, ticks, mites and lice live on or just under the skin. Internal parasites include intestinal worms as well as protozoa such as giardia, often ingested from contaminated water supplies. All parasites can cause discomfort, illness and even death.
The incidence of parasites in animals is high although it depends on the animal. Domestic pets that forage for mice, birds and other such wildlife will ingest parasites from their prey. The danger is that these parasites can be passed on to their owners in a variety of ways. How many children play in sandpits where dogs or cats have left their calling card? Or how many people are repeatedly licked on the face by a friendly pet? How many people don’t scrub their fingernails before eating?
How can a parasite possibly live inside your body? The answer is simple. The purpose of a parasite is to not make itself known. Parasites are very adept at evading a response from the immune system. They live undetected because once they are revealed, something will be done to eliminate them. Parasites have an innate ability to survive and reproduce. This is the purpose of any organism on this planet. Although this may sound simplistic it can make life for humans very difficult.
If you know how to recognize and interpret the symptoms, the presence of a parasite can be established easily. In humans this can manifest as low energy levels, health conditions, skin rashes, pains, frequent colds, flu and constipation. The list goes on and on. The key is to question these symptoms rather than think such afflictions are commonplace.
In his book, "Animals Parasitic in Man." by Geoffrey Lapage, states: "There is no part of the human body, nor indeed, any part of the bodies of the hosts of parasitic animals in general, which is not visited by some kind of parasitic animal at some time or another, during their life histories." In short parasites can migrate to any part of your body. No organ is immune from their infestation.
Parasites that regularly affect animals include microscopic protozoans, a host of migratory worms and arthropod parasites such as mites, ticks, lice, fleas and even some spiders.
Hookworm infection occurs when larvae in the soil penetrate the pet’s skin, move into the bloodstream, and eventually travel to the intestine. Adult worms mature in the wall of the intestine and feed on blood from the intestinal lining, sometimes causing serious anemia.
Roundworm infections of dogs and cats occur when microscopic worm eggs present in the soil are eaten. The eggs develop through larval stages in the gut; some larvae penetrate the intestinal wall, migrate to the lungs and are coughed up then re-swallowed, after which they re-enter the small intestine where they mature into adult worms. Roundworms compete with your pet for food, causing malnutrition.
Roundworm enter their host by ingestion; hookworm by active penetration of the skin; the heartworm enters its dog host with the help of a mosquito vector. Microscopic larvae enter the blood along with mosquito saliva when an infected mosquito bites a dog. The larvae uses the blood stream to carry it right into to the heart where it matures, infesting the heart’s chambers and lodging in the veins that enter the heart.
National Geographic: October 1997 “Parasites: looking For a Free Lunch”
“Some parasites can change the habits of animals, prodding them to adjust their usual behaviour. Horses of the Camargue in southern France leave their creekside habitat for a higher ground during hours of peak horsefly activity. Field crickets in Hawaii adjust the timing of their mating songs to avoid attack by parasitic flies, says Marlene Zuk, a biologist at the University of California, Riverside. Even the stripes of a zebra may be an adaptation for evading the blood-sucking tsetse flies of sub-Saharan Africa. Tsetse’s often carry parasites called trypanosomes, microscopic protozoans that cause sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in animals, a disease marked by fever and anemia which usually ends in death.”
Discover Magazine August 2000 “Do Parasites Rule the World?”
Leopard frogs may harbour a dozen species of parasite, including nematodes in their ears, filarial worms in their veins and flukes in their kidneys, bladder and intestines. One species of Mexican parrot carries 30 different species of mites on its feathers alone. Often the parasites themselves have parasites of their own.
Ann Louise Gittleman “Guess What Came to Dinner?”
“Pets are host to numerous parasites and are unexpected spreaders of disease. There are 240 infectious diseases transmitted by animals to humans. Of these 65 are transmitted by dogs and 39 by cats. One pet food manufacturer in America says that 89 percent of household cats sleep with their owners. "Dog and car roundworm, hookworm and cat-transmitted toxoplasmosis can become severe in pregnant women and children and even life threatening in immunocompromised individuals" Phillip Gosciensk, M.D. Head of the Infectious Disease Branch of Pediatrics at the Naval Regional Medical Center, finds it remarkable that these diseases are almost always unsuspected and unrecognized.“
Carl Zimmer “Parasite Rex”
“Animals will sometimes defend themselves against parasites with a change of diet. Some will just stop eating. If a sheep is hit by a bad dose of intestinal worms, for instance, it may graze only a third of its normal intake.”
“Some animals under attack by parasites will start eating foods they almost never eat. Some species of wooly bears for example normally eat lupine. When attacked by parasitic flies that lay eggs in their bodies, the woolly bears increase their chance of survival by changing from a diet of lupine to one of poison hemlock. The parasitic flies still crawl out of their bodies, but some chemical in the hemlock helps the woolly bears stay alive and grow to adulthood. The woolly bears in other words have evolved a simple kind of medicine.”
“Sick chimps will sometimes swallow certain kinds of leaves whole; they will strip the bark of other plants and eat the bitter pith inside. The plants have almost no nutrition in them, but they have another value. The leaves seem to be able to clear out worms from the intestines, and the bitter pith is used as a medicine by the people who share the forest with the chimps. When scientists have analyzed the plants in laboratories, they’ve discovered that they can kill many parasites.”
With thanks to National Geographic, Discover Magazine, Ann Louise Gittleman and Carl Zimmer