Parasite Control and Prevention

Fleas

Is your pet scratching, itching and keeping you up at night? Well, they may have fleas. Fleas sliently invite themselves into your home and onto your pet. Unfortunately, fleas are here to stay. Your pet is not the only creature that can be bitten by a flea, we can too; cats, kittens, puppies and adult dogs are most affected by these annoying bugs. Fleas are everywhere there are animals.

scratching
Adult fleas are small, flat, wingless and have 3 pairs of jointed legs. They get their meal by biting and then sucking a blood meal from your pet. The life cycle stages of the flea are egg, larvae, pupa and adult. Adult fleas can survive many months on an untreated pet. Under optimal conditions of humidity and heat the cycle of egg to adult is about 28 days. Temperature and humidity can affect the length and success of the life cycle. Adult fleas spend all of their lives on the host and this is the stage of the cycle that you as a pet owner, encounter. The adult fleas you see on your pet only represent about 5% of the flea population in your home. Adult fleas lay hundreds of eggs with each blood meal and those flea eggs can survive in the environment for a very long time, maybe even up to a year.

Fleas can breed indoors, year round. Fleas can result in obvious irritation and itching; however, they can also trigger a variety of more serious allergic reactions, including inflammation of the skin. Fleas can transmit tapeworm, an intestinal parasite as well as transmit other diseases. Fleas feed on blood, so in serious flea infestations, blood loss can result in anemia, especially in puppies and kittens.

We offer several topical solutions and oral medication to kill fleas and to prevent eggs from hatching. We have an injectable flea product for cats as well. In addition to treating your pet, you must also treat the environment. scratching picture

Call us today to schedule an appointment to discuss flea treatment and prevention options.

How do you check for fleas? First, look for black specs, flea dirt, on your pet or where they sleep. You can then run a fine tooth comb through their coat, making sure it touches the skin. If the comb gathers black specs, you have found flea dirt. Place a white paper towel under the comb with the flea dirt, or rub some of the flea dirt onto the paper towel. Wet the towel and if the flea dirt turns dark red, your pet has fleas. If you find an adult flea during this process, drown them in soapy water so they don't end up back in the environment.

Ticks

What Are Ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of unlucky host animals such as our canine companions. Muck like mites and spiders, ticks are arachnids. The brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, and the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, examples of ticks that commonly affect dogs, require three feedings to complete their life cycles.

How Are Ticks Transmitted to Dogs?
Ticks are most active in from spring through fall and live in tall brush or grass, where they may attach to dogs playing on their turf. Ticks prefer to stay close to the head, neck, feet and ear area. In severe infestations, however, they can be found anywhere on a dog's body.

How Do I Know if My Dog Has Ticks?
Ticks are visible to the naked eye. During the warmer months, it's a good idea to check your dog regularly. If you do spot a tick, it is important to take care when removing it. Any contact with the tick's blood can potentially transmit infection to your dog or even to you! Treat the area with rubbing alcohol and pluck the parasite with tweezers, making sure you've gotten the biting head and other body parts. Since it may only take a few hours for disease to be transmitted from an attached tick, it is ideal for your dog to be evaluated by a veterinarian soon after any ticks are found.

What Are Some Complications Associated with Ticks in Dogs?

  • Blood loss
  • Anemia
  • Tick paralysis
  • Skin irritation or infection

Ticks can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, all of which can cause serious complications and are potentially fatal without prompt and proper treatment.

My Dog Has Been Bitten by a Tick! What Should I Do?
Remove the tick, as noted above and then call us to schedule and appointment to discuss your pet's continued risk and prevention options. We may also perform blood tests to rule out diseases transmitted by ticks.

What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect humans, dogs, cats and other mammals. Its primary carrier is the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), which often feeds on rodents in its early stages. Later, the tick can attach to a dog or human and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Clinical signs include depression, swelling of the lymph nodes, loss of appetite and fever, as well as lameness and swollen, painful joints. Renal failure can also be a consequence of Lyme disease.

What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Lyme Disease?
Bring your pet to for an examination and evaluation. The exam might include a physical exam, blood tests and possibly radiographs.

How Is Lyme Disease Treated?
Canine Lyme disease is most often effectively treated with antibiotics. With prompt, proper treatment, your dog's condition should start to improve within 48 hours.

How Can I Prevent Tick Infestation?
Many of the same products on the market that treat fleas also kill ticks and protect against future infestation. These topical treatments are especially recommended for those dogs that live in areas with high tick populations. Call our office so we can discuss the best product for your dog. The key to any successful tick control program lies, literally, in your own backyard. Ensure a tick-free lawn by mowing it regularly, removing tall weeds and making it inhospitable to rodents by keeping garbage covered and inaccessible.

Heartworm Disease

What Is Heartworm?
A heartworm is a parasitic worm, Dirofilaria immitis, that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal. The worms travel through the bloodstream—harming arteries and vital organs as they go—ultimately completing their journey to the vessels of the lung and the heart chamber about six months after the initial infection. Several hundred worms can live in one dog for five to seven years. Heartworm disease is serious, and can be fatal.

We feel very strongly about YEAR ROUND heartworm preventative for all dogs. This often fatal disease spread by mosquitos, can be prevented by administering monthly oral medication or by getting an injectable preventative given every six months. With the advances in preventative medications and the ease of administration, there is no excuse for your pet to become infected with heartworm.

What Causes Heartworm?
Heartworms are transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes. The lifecycle of the heartworm is complex. An animal must carry at least two heartworms, a male and a female, in order for female heartworms to reproduce. Females produce babies, called "microfilariae," which are shed into an animal's bloodstream but are not capable of directly causing heartworm without first passing through a mosquito. The microfilariae must be taken up by biting mosquitoes, and transform into infective larvae over a two-week period inside the insect. When the mosquito next bites a susceptible animal, the infective larvae enter the tissues and begin a migration into the blood vessels.

Heartworms enter an animal's bloodstream as tiny, invisible larvae, but can reach lengths of more than twelve inches at maturity.

What Are the General Symptoms of Heartworm?
Symptoms of heartworm infestation can include labored breathing, coughing, vomiting, weight loss and listlessness, and fatigue after only moderate exercise. However, some dogs exhibit no symptoms at all until late stages of infection.

How Is Heartworm Diagnosed?
Heartworm disease is diagnosed by examination and an occult heartworm test. If your pet is displaying any symptoms of heartworm disease, further diagnostics may be needed. These can include radiographs or ultrasound and additional blood tests. All dogs should be routinely screened with a blood test for heartworm annually.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Heartworm?
A heartworm infestation can happen to any dog, as well as cats and some wild animals, when conditions in which mosquitoes thrive—are at the greatest risk. The disease has been seen in every state except Alaska.

How Can Heartworm Be Prevented?
The good news is that heartworm is easy preventable. Call our office to schedule your pet's annual physical and heartworm test. We will provide you with the most up to date information on the prevention of heartworm disease. Preventive products can be given to dogs under six months of age without a blood test, however older animals must be screened for the disease prior to starting medication. We follow the recommendation from the American Heartworm Society, which is to keep giving them all year—not only does this avoid errors, but many of the products also prevent other intestinal parasites.

How Is Heartworm Treated?
If you pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, a thorough examination of the infected dog should be conducted to evaluate the best course of treatment and the potential risks involved. The most common course of treatment is a series of injections of drugs called adulticides into the dogs' muscle. This treatment has a high success rate and usually requires hospitalization. However, all treatment protocols require several weeks of exercise restriction after treatment and are not without risk. Disease prevention is a much better and safer option. After treatment, your dog should be placed on a preventative medication to reduce the risk of re-infection.

When Is It Time to See the Vet?
If you notice that your dog's energy has decreased, they seems ill, or is exhibiting any of the general symptoms described above, please contact our office immediately.

Poop

POOP

Now that we have your attention, your pet stool is a valuable indicator of their internal health. Internal parasites such as worms steal from your pet's nutrition, can cause many serious conditions, including anemia and death.

Checking your pet's stool can also detect serious bacterial infections, including Giardia, a water-borne parasite.

Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are in the environment. Eggs of these parasites are in the ground and on grass and weeds. Your pet does not need contact with another animal that might have worms to get these worms.

The life cycle of the tapeworm is different from other worms. For your pet to become infected with tape worms, it must ingest an intermediate host, which can be fleas, small rodents or other mammals.

Although most heartworm prevention medications also provide "control" for roundworms, hookworms and whipworms, it is important to check their stool sample with every wellness visit and anytime they have an abnormal stool.