Record breaking parasites

The spring alarm clock wakes up the bugs and the parasites. As the temperatures rise, our pets are increasingly vulnerable to dangers from many parasites and the diseases they carry. Not only are they bad for people and pets, parasites are amazingly capable of breaking world records. Let's journey into the parasite book of records:

Mosquitoes - There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide! About 130 species reside in North America. They can smell their dinner from an impressive distance of up to 40 miles. They are attracted by motion, sweat, humidity, carbon dioxide and high concentrations of cholesterol. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn when the temperatures are moderate and winds are calm, but some are active all day long. Only females bite. They inject their saliva into the skin to prevent blood clotting. This causes the small swelling and the itch. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease and West Nile encephalitis.

Heartworms- Infected dogs will usually carry several adult heartworms in the heart and lungs. The worms live and reproduce for five to seven years at least (about half of a dog's life span) and release numerous microfilariae into the blood. The record number of adult worms found in a single dog is 116, a whopping total of 70 feet worth of worms. One infected foxhound dog had a reported concentration of 40,460 microfilariae per cc of blood. Heartworms are also found in the liver, trachea, esophagus, stomach, feces, eye, brain, spinal cord and vomitus.  

Tapeworms- Tapeworms are flat, segmented long worms that live in the small intestine. The adult worm, which can be up to six feet long, releases small segments full of eggs in the feces. Initially the segments are active, but as they dry, they break open and liberate the eggs. Depending on the tapeworm, either an adult louse or, more commonly, a flea larva, ingests the eggs. Dogs and cats ingest the larvae which develop into adult worms that may remain in the intestines for a year or more. 

Fleas- There are more than 2,000 known species of fleas, which have been around for about 100 million years. They measure from 1mm to 12 mm (0.5 inch). Fleas are excellent jumpers, leaping vertically up to seven inches (about 200 times the length of their own bodies). Their movement up to thirteen inches across surfaces corresponds to a human jump of 250 feet high and 450 feet long. That's record breaking! A flea's jump requires acceleration 50 times greater than the space shuttle after liftoff. Fleas can also pull 160,000 times their own weight, the equivalent of a human pulling 24 million pounds. Interestingly dog fleas are better jumpers than cat fleas. The female flea can lay 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. If all 53 million dogs in the U.S. each hosted a population of 60 fleas, we'd have more than six trillion flea eggs surrounding our pets. Laid end-to-end, those eggs would stretch around the world more than 76 times! The female flea consumes 15 times her own body weight in blood daily. If you happen to see one flea, there may be more than 100 offspring or adults looming nearby in furniture, corners, cracks, carpets or on your pet.

Ticks- There are many species of ticks worldwide. Adult females can enlarge to two to three times their normal size after they have fed on blood. A fully engorged female tick will increase her body weight from about 5 mg to 700 or more mg, a 140-fold increase! Blood is essential for egg development. The adult female tick lays a mass of 1000-3000 eggs after engorging on a dog's blood. These eggs are often found in cracks on the roofs of kennels or high on the walls and ceilings of buildings. Ticks transmit Lyme disease, Tick paralysis, Tularemia, Q fever and other serious diseases.

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