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 quality of life and even cause life threatening health issues.
There are both internal and external parasites that can affect your pet in different ways. Internal parasites include heartworms and intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms). The most common external parasites are fleas and ticks. With preventative care and medicine, your pet should be free from parasites, both internal and external.
Fleas are small, jumping insects that feeds on the blood of mammals. For every flea that is visible on your pet, there are at least 100 eggs ready to hatch in the carpet, bedding, or other areas of your house.
You can see fleas, but they are fast and can jump far, and therefore can be difficult to find. Sometimes, it is easier to look for ‘flea dirt’, which is the remains of their blood meals. It looks like pieces of ground pepper, usually near the tail. Because it looks like any other dirt, put the specks on a wet paper towel and the flea dirt will turn the towel brown, then red.
Flea bites cause itching, but some animals are allergic to the saliva of fleas, which can cause inflammation and more discomfort than expected for just a few bites. 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.
Ticks 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, such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasma . If left untreated, these diseases can lead to more severe health problems.
Transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your pet, these parasites travel to the heart and surrounding blood vessels. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing, weight loss, tiring easily and listlessness. In many cases pets do not show outward signs until 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 and dangerous which is why prevention is key. Even dogs that never leave their home are at risk for heartworm disease because mosquitos can get into the house. A monthly heartworm pill (Interceptor plus, Heartgard) will prevent heartworm disease.
All of these parasites can be prevented with monthly medication given year round. 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 yearly which pest control products are ideal for your household based on the everyday life of your pet.