Parasite Prevention and Control


PARASITES(Worms) Fecal exams and regular deworming are the best way to prevent parasitic disease, and the transmission of intestinal parasites from pets to people (zoonosis). Frequent deworming of puppies and kittens, as well as regular deworming of adults pets prevents the shedding of parasite eggs: which can contaminate yards or any place pets defecate. The danger is not only that your pet can be infected, but that family members can be infected too.

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FLEAS    Fleas are one of the most common ectoparasites of companion animals and feed on the blood of their hosts. Well fed this way, adults survive on a host for up to 140 days. Several thousands of eggs are laid by female fleas and dropped wherever the host animal goes. The warm temperature and humidity in homes provide a favorable microclimate for multiple flea life cycles. Flea infestation can disrupt the general well-being of all animals, cause itching, redness, hair loss, and in certain cases severe skin infections. The most harmful effects are:

  • Blood loss
  • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)
  • Transmission of tapeworms
  • Transmission of bacterial diseases

TICKS Most ticks seek hosts by crawling up the stems of grass or perch on the edges of leaves on the ground in a typical posture with the front legs extended (a behavior called questing). Others are so-called nest parasites, questing in sheltered environments. Carbon dioxide as well as heat and movement serve as stimuli for the questing behavior. As soon as a suitable host brushes against their extended front legs, the questing tick climbs on to its body, holds on tight, bores into the skin and begins to draw tissue fluids such as blood. A tick bite not only causes a localized infection, it can also serve as the portal through which serious diseases are transmitted. These can have a severe impact on the animal's well being. Ticks can transmit disease agents such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. The most harmful effects are:

  • Transmission of Lyme disease
  • Transmission of Babesiosis
  • Transmission of Ehrlichiosis
  • Transmission of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
  • Tick paralysis

FLEA AND TICK CONTROL In general, allowing companion animals to roam freely is not recommended. Keep dogs and cats tied or restricted to a mowed area. If a tick should be found in the animal's coat, it can be removed correctly with special tick tweezers. Grasp the tick as closely to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. It's best to let your veterinarian show you how this is done.  There are many products available to control fleas and ticks.  We can help you sort through the collars, topicals and oral products and help you make the best choice for your pet.

HEARTWORM DISEASE  Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs and cats. Dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. Transmission Mosquitoes become infected with microfilaria (baby heartworms) while taking a blood meal from the infected animal. During the next 10 to 14 days, the microfilaria mature to the infective larval stage within the mosquito. After that, the mosquito bites another dog, cat or other susceptible animal, and the infective larvae enter through the bite wound. It then takes a little over 6 months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms. In dogs, the worms may live for up to 7 years. Microfilaria cannot mature into adult heartworms without first passing through a mosquito. Symptoms Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss. Cats may exhibit clinical signs that are very non-specific, mimicking many other feline diseases. Chronic clinical signs include vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss. Signs associated with the first stage of heartworm disease, when the heartworms enter a blood vessel and are carried to the pulmonary arteries, are often mistaken for feline asthma or allergic bronchitis, when in fact they are actually due to a syndrome newly defined as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD). Detection The best way to detect Heartworm in an otherwise healthy pet is with an annual blood test. Blood can be drawn during your pet’s annual examination, and the test can be run in 9 minutes while you wait. Heartworm infection may also occasionally be detected through ultrasound and/or x-ray images of the heart and lungs, although these tests are usually used in animals already known to be infected. Prevention Heartworm prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive. While treatment for heartworm disease in dogs is possible, it is a complicated and expensive process, taking weeks for infected animals to recover. There is no effective treatment for heartworm disease in cats, so it is imperative that disease prevention measures be taken for cats. Monthly heartworm preventative, given year round helps control heartworm disease, and intestinal parasites in both dogs and cats. We recommend some of the following products for the control of Heartworm disease: Interceptor ( Novartis ), Heartgard (Merial), Advantage Multi (Bayer). Treatment Usually, all but the most advanced cases of heartworm disease can be successfully treated in dogs. Currently, there are no products in the United States approved for the treatment of heartworm infection in cats. Cats have proven to be more resistant hosts to heartworm than dogs, and often appear to be able to rid themselves of infection spontaneously. Unfortunately, many cats tend to react severely to the dead worms as they are being cleared by the body, and this can result in a shock reaction, a life-threatening situation. Veterinarians will often attempt to treat an infected cat with supportive therapy measures to minimize this reaction; however it is always best to prevent the disease. 

For more information on Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats see: American Heartworm Society-Basics for Pet Owners   


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