A veterinarian advised pet owners to vigilantly protect their cats and dogs from parasitic insects while outdoors.
Pets might come into contact with mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and leeches — all of which feed on blood and can deposit eggs or harmful bacteria in an animal, Sheng An Animal Clinic veterinarian Huang Cheng-yi (黃正宜) said.
Mosquitoes are found year-round indoors and out, and are more prevalent near water, Huang said.
Owners should keep pets away from stagnant water, where mosquitoes are likely to bite their ears, feet, tail or mouth, he said, adding that particular caution is warranted in summer, when owners often shave their dogs, leaving more skin exposed.
Owners should ensure that pets are vaccinated against parasites and given heartworm preventives, he said.
Vaccinations should be given once a year and preventives once a month, Huang said.
Pets might come in contact with ticks when in underbrush or shady areas, he said, adding that owners should not attempt to pull the ticks out or burn them.
Medicinal sprays designed for tick and flea infestations immobilize the insects and they fall out, he said.
Once the ticks are removed, they should be put in a sealable bag for disposal, he said, adding that squashing them is not advised, as doing so might spread their eggs.
Tick infestations that are left untreated can put a pet at risk of ehrlichiosis, a bacterial illness that can cause aches and severe fever, Huang said.
In the worst cases, infected pets could get kidney disease, lyme disease or experience organ failure, he said.
Fleas hide in cool, grassy areas and their bites can cause infections that can lead to skin irritation, fur loss, diarrhea, anemia or loss of appetite, Huang said.
Leeches can latch onto pets in water, sometimes entering their nasal cavities, where they can cause breathing difficulty, he said.
A vet can remove leeches with directed light or medication, he added.
For indoor pets, parasitic infections can still occur if they eat raw meat or play with cockroaches, or if parasites are brought into the house on shoes or clothing, Huang said.
Cats’ hunting instinct often leads them to play with insects, but this can be mitigated if owners regularly spend time playing with their pets, he said.
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