If you are at all creeped out by things with more legs than you or your pet, stop reading now.

Spring is in the air – finally! And, spring is also the time that your veterinarian starts bugging you about bugs. Warm weather makes the creepy crawlies more active and the things with wings will soon be here. Buggy things can be ingested by your pet through oral fecal contamination, eg. the dirt at the dog park, shared topically at doggie daycare, or via a bite from a mosquito.

Intestinal parasites are lurkers – they can lurk dormant in soil or in the body, activating with ingestion or other stimuli. While we are lucky to be a mile high and dry, we do and have been seeing an increase in the common intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms. And, did you know that more than 15% of potting soils contain parasite eggs – so cats are not immune as many like to play with houseplants. Zoonotic concerns also exist for people, especially children, when a pet is potentially shedding intestinal parasites or other bugs such as Giardia.

So how do you protect your pet/s and your children? An annual fecal sample analysis is strongly recommended as well as anytime you see diarrhea that is more than transient. For dogs and outdoor cats, they should be regularly dewormed and it doesn’t hurt to occasionally deworm an indoor cat as well. Your veterinarian can advise you regarding appropriate parasite prevention based on your household’s lifestyle and risks.

What about the things that walk onto your pet? Lice and mites are something that literally makes the skin crawl. But, luckily, mites and lice are species specific for the most part, uncommonly causing issues for their non-host species. Most commonly, we see Mallophaga, biting lice, or Cheyletiella mites, aka walking lice, as an environmental critter in areas where dogs go to hang out or at doggie daycare. These bugs are not carriers of other diseases and are easily treated by your veterinarian.

Have I grossed you out yet? The next big bug of concern is the mosquito – always knew they were evil. It disheartens me that many veterinarians in Denver tell owners that we do not have any significant heartworm risk for our canine patients when we’ve seen and treated several pets in just the short time our practice has been open. We do have heartworm in Denver and the rate, while low when compared to an endemic area such as the Gulf Coast, is increasing every year with increased pet mobility and increased contact with mosquitos. The best prevention against heartworm and intestinal parasites is to have your dog on monthly heartworm preventative year-round – inexpensive, safe and providing peace of mind if you have young children. Cats can also be on preventative, but heartworm disease in cats is a more difficult topic – discuss with your veterinarian to tailor to your cat’s or cats’ risk level.

Bugs, bugs and more bugs – I could go on, but I’ve used my monthly allotment.