Parasites such as fleas, ticks, and heartworms can be very damaging to your pet’s health. Preventive measures should be taken year-round to protect your pet from these parasite borne diseases.
The idea of your pet being infested with parasites is a disturbing thought, but it’s also a medical issue that can have serious consequences. Parasites can diminish the quality of life and even cause life-threatening health issues.
Common internal parasites include heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. The most frequent external parasites include fleas and ticks. Your pet should be free from parasites, both internal and external.
Fleas are small, wingless, brown, and fast-moving insects you can see in your pet’s fur. Some animals are allergic to the saliva of fleas, which can cause inflammation and more discomfort. If ingested while your pet is grooming themselves, fleas can transmit an intestinal parasite called tapeworm. Flea infestations can lead to anemia and fleas are also capable of transmitting serious diseases.
If your pet is showing signs of fleas such as continuous scratching, gnawing, or licking, call us immediately. Additionally, flea dirt, the byproduct of fleas that looks like coffee grounds or pepper, can usually be seen in your pet’s bedding, by looking at your pet’s abdomen, or by combing your pet’s coat with a fine-tooth comb.
Disease-carrying ticks pose health risks to dogs and people, no matter where you live. The CDC reports that ticks in every U.S. state carry disease, and the number of tickborne diseases is increasing.
Ticks are members of the spider family and live in cracks and crevices in the home or outside in vegetation such as grassy meadows, woods, brush, and weeds. Some tick bites only cause mild irritation or swelling at the site, but other tick bites can infect your pet with serious illnesses. If left untreated, these diseases, such as Lyme Disease, can lead to more severe health problems or even be fatal.
If you see a tick on your pet, do not try to burn it off with a match. This does not work and could harm your pet. It’s much safer to have one of our trained professionals remove the tick for you. Call us immediately to limit the impact of the tick.
Note: An annual blood test is used to screen for tick-borne diseases.
Heartworms are transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your pet. Heartworms are foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets. They cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs in the body. This is called heartworm disease. Heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Unrecognized and untreated heartworm infections can be fatal.
An infected pet usually shows no signs of heartworm disease for months. Later symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing, weight loss, tiring easily, and listlessness. In many cases, pets do not show outward signs until the advanced stages of the disease. An annual blood test is recommended to screen for heartworms. This disease can be treated if found early, but it can be costly.
Heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. If untreated, dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, heartworm prevention is critical.
The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats and it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.
The best treatment for heartworms is prevention. One of the most common and effective prevention methods for cats and dogs is a monthly oral or topical preventative. For dogs, Critter Care also offers a once-yearly injection that prevents heartworm disease for twelve months.
Our veterinary team is happy to help you choose the correct preventive regimen based on your pet’s risk factors and health status. It is important to discuss with us which pest control products are ideal for your household based on the everyday life of your pet.