Even if we can’t always see the effects, parasites can have devastating effects on animals if they’re not treated or prevented against.

Parasites are organisms that survive by attacking pets and farm animals for nourishment. They live in or on the body, benefiting from food and protection, while the unfortunate host animal suffers. External parasites, such as ticks, can then transfer disease from animals to people. However, a combination of watchful management of animals and targeted medicines can control parasites before these organisms cause serious harm.

Common parasites like ticks, mosquitos and fleas live outside the body on the skin or hidden in an animal’s fur. These types of parasites can be especially dangerous as they not only harm the animal, they can quickly spread a disease outbreak.

For example, Rift Valley Fever is an endemic zoonotic disease throughout Africa and the Middle East that costs producers US$427 million every year. Outbreaks often spike after heavy rains because it is spread by parasites.

Mosquitos will bite an infected animal. When it then bites heathy cattle or even people, it will spread the illness to them.

Producers can limit their animals’ risk through actions like applying parasiticides to prevent infestations from taking hold or using insecticides to control insects (often called ‘vectors’) on the farm.

Parasites, like worms, may also live inside the body though. Cattle may inadvertently pick up parasite larvae that hide on the ground when grazing pastures. The parasite will then steal nutrition from the cattle, causing them to lose weight and reduce milk production. Animal medicines such as anthelmintics and other dewormers can control parasites before an infection becomes serious. 

Pets can also experience parasites such as common fleas or especially dangerous ones like heartworms. Pet owners must pay close attention to their animal and watch for signs of parasites. Veterinarians can also help provide the right medicines and treatments to help with prevention. This helps us share a home and healthy lives with our pets.

Quick Facts

  • Parasites affect people and animals: Lyme disease is just one example of a disease spread by parasites. Transmitted to livestock animals, pets and people by ticks, Lyme disease can spread to the joints, the heart and the entire nervous system in people and animals if left untreated.
  • Prevention first: Parasites are often entirely preventable but they can make life extremely difficult for our pets. There are some simple measures we can take to prevent the spread of parasites, such as clearing up after our pets and preventing the spread of infection through feces.
  • Awareness builds protection: The animal health sector is providing education, and campaigning about the dangers of parasites for our pets. This awareness is becoming increasingly important as more of us across the world are becoming pet owners.