Preventive ProgramsTicks, Fleas, and Heartworm
Your pets are an important part of your family. They play with your kids, cuddle in our laps for comfort, kiss our faces with affection. Internal and external parasites are more than pests. Heartworms, fleas, ticks, and others can cause severe life-threatening conditions in your pet, and can also pose a great risk to the health of your family as well. Some parasites and diseases can be transferred from an infected animal to humans.
A preventative program, recommended by our veterinarians, is the best way to ensure the health and safety of your entire family. They will also discuss recommended annual tests, such as Heartworm Testing, and explain their importance to the health and safety of your pet.
There are some basic tips that will help minimize the chance of a parasite infestation, and help keep your pet happy and healthy:
• Good personal hygiene- Keep your four-legged friend clean! Some long furred dogs require what is called a sanitary trim to keep their private parts clean after going to the bathroom. Pay attention to the eyes, ears, teeth, breathe, nails, and coat.
• Preventative flea, tick, and worm treatment annually
• Clean environment- clean up pet feces regularly, remove any standing water in the yard (refilling your pet’s bowl often with fresh water), wash pet bedding and cloth toys weekly.
Fleas Prevention and Control
Fleas can cause anything from minor itchy irritations, to serious life-threatening issues. Severe itching, allergies, anemia, tape worms, and other diseases can all be as a result of a flea infestation. Some animals even develop an additional irritation to the animal in the form of Flea Allergy Dermatitis, which is a developed allergy to a flea’s saliva.
Fleas are blood-sucking parasites, any animal with fur are susceptible to an infestation, and these pests often jump from their animal hosts and bite people. This is why protecting your pet from the multiple dangers of fleas is the best way for you to keep your family safe as well. There are a variety of preventatives to choose from, including topical or oral medication. Our veterinarian will speak to you to help you decide on the best preventative program for your pet, and the best treatment for an existing infestation. For more information, see our flea article.
Heartworm disease is a horrible thing for any animal to go through. It caused by Dirofilaria immitis and spread through mosquito bites, many animals are vulnerable because of the ease in which it can spread. Both cats and dogs can suffer from heartworms, but the treatment is different for both species. In very rare circumstances, heartworms have been known to spread to humans as well, once an infected animal is bitten by a mosquito and moves on to a human host.
Despite the severity of this disease, symptoms can vary widely with some animals not showing any visible symptoms up until the day they collapse. Each case is different, with many variables, so two animals may present with completely different severity.
Signs in dogs can range from coughing, fatigue, weight loss, difficulty breathing, and swollen abdomen (from fluid accumulation from heart failure). Heartworm in dogs can also lead to a life-threatening complication called “caval syndrome” which is a form of liver failure. Without prompt surgical intervention, this condition usually results in death.
Cats are less susceptible to heartworms, but they are still at risk. Heartworms in cats can cause a syndrome referred to as Heartworm-Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD), with subtle symptoms that can mimic those of asthma or allergic bronchitis. Other common signs are of respiratory distress, with fast or difficulty breathing, panting, wheezing. Other symptoms to look for are coughing, vomiting (usually unrelated to eating) and loss of weight and appetite.
The diagnosis of heartworm in cats is more difficult than in dogs, and treatment for both species can be expensive, and possibly dangerous. Depending on the original condition of the animal, a dog may not survive the heartworm treatment. There is no approved treatment for cats. The standard therapy for Feline Heartworm is veterinary care, with possible hospitalization, to help stabilize the animal’s condition and treat some secondary complications caused by the parasites.
How to protect against heartworms
It is highly recommended that every cat and dog receive an annual heartworm testing, along with their regular annual exam. Even if your pet is on a monthly preventative, it is still important to get the testing done, because heartworms can take up to 7 months before they will show up positive on the test. Something as simple as being a few days late with the next month’s treatment, and you may not find out until next year’s test. Speak to our veterinarian about any questions you have about heartworm.
Ticks are becoming more widespread in North America. In the recent years, areas safe from tick encounters in the past are suffering increasing infestations. Ticks can carry serious, sometimes deadly diseases, some which include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis. Even your indoor pet is at risk, as these parasites often catch a ride on someone’s clothing or body. Contact your vet immediately if you pet begins coughing, has joint pain, trouble breathing, fever, weakness, loss of weight and appetite, less energy, and problems with coordination.
Even while on the preventative, you may still find the occasional tick on your dog or cat. Some preventative treatments kill the ticks after they bite the animal. Others may be killed through contact with the skin of a protected pet, but hide under the fur. As an added measure of protection, it is recommended that you check your pets for ticks every time they come in from outside. Should you find a tick, it needs to be removed immediately. The longer it stays attached to the host, the greater the chance of spreading disease. Speak to our veterinarians if you see any ticks to properly remove them. Do not crush, burn, or suffocate the tick, as this may help spread bacteria.
What tests are available for parasites?
Our veterinarian will be able to discuss any testing that is available to help diagnose or detect parasites. There are annual blood tests for heartworm and other blood born parasites, as well as fecal testing for internal parasites. Skin scrapings and swabs can be taken to determine external parasites like fleas or mites.