Beware the Bug - New Campaign Urges Pet Owners to Talk to Their Veterinarian About Annual Parasite Screenings


All dogs – no matter their breeds, sizes, ages or geographic locations – are at risk of infection from a variety of parasites, including ticks, fleas, roundworms, whipworms and heartworms. And so are dog owners and their families.

Some parasites can be contracted by people the very same ways pets get them. Infections can lead to illness or disease – from recognizable conditions like the tick-borne Lyme disease to lesser-known, but equally serious conditions carried by intestinal parasites, such as roundworms and tapeworms, which can be dangerous or fatal.

Experts estimate that 34 percent of all dogs in the United States have some type of intestinal parasite. Many people also are affected. The Centers for Disease Control reported last year that 14 percent of Americans showed evidence of having been infected with the roundworm Toxocara, an intestinal parasite often found in companion animals. Because family members can be infected with Toxocara if their dog is harboring an infection, it's important for pet owners to be aware of these important parasitic infections.

Pet owners can significantly lower the odds of parasites harming their dogs or children by visiting veterinarians regularly to get annual blood and fecal screenings, enabling the veterinarian to detect diseases before dogs exhibit clinical signs. Annual wellness exams also provide an opportunity for owners to discuss recommended preventive medications against internal and external parasites. Pet Health Network (, a veterinarian-recommended pet-health educational resource dedicated to the health and well-being of companion animals, is reminding pet owners through its new "Beware the Bug" ( campaign that the best ways to protect pets and people from parasitic diseases are speaking with their veterinarian about annual screenings and preventatives.

"With the weather getting warmer and people and pets spending more time outside, there is increased risk of parasite exposure," said Dr. Ruth MacPete, a practicing veterinarian, writer and media personality known nationally as the "pet vet." "Fortunately, people don't need to panic. It's easy to protect your family and pets from parasites by using year-round monthly parasite preventatives and taking your pet to the veterinarian for annual parasite screening tests. This includes a stool sample test for intestinal parasites and a blood test for heartworms and tick-borne diseases."

The risk of parasitic infections is greatest in warmer-weather months, when more people and pets are outside. Compounding the issue this year is the nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council's (CAPC) forecast for higher-than-normal levels of parasitic diseases in various regions of the country.

For example, the 2014 CAPC Forecasts predict heartworms will be more prevalent than usual in southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. The CAPC expects Lyme prevalence to be worse this year in Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire and southwest Virginia. The parasites that spread these diseases are constantly moving, expanding the geographic range of the diseases. As a pet owner, keeping up with the dynamic parasitic risks in your area is critical to disease prevention.

Ticks transmit Lyme and other diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis, to pets and to people. Fleas can irritate pets' skin, give them infections and sometimes even cause anemia in young animals. Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, malnutrition, weight loss and anemia.

Heartworm disease in dogs and cats can be debilitating and, if left untreated, fatal. And some worms, like hookworms and roundworms, can cause infections and illnesses in humans as well as pets.

Beware the Bug is more than a catch phrase; it's a warning all pet owners should heed to keep the animal and human members of their families safe and healthy. Pet Health Network has partnered with industry media leaders, such as Fetch Magazine and Steve Dale's Pet World to increase the reach of the Beware the Bug campaign. To learn more, visit