The Essentials: Year-Round Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention
Parasite control is a must for every furry friend, and the foundation of this is flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Unfortunately, some pet owners make the mistake of skipping a month of heartworm medication or assume that indoor kitty doesn’t need to be on any form of parasite prevention.
To highlight some of the reasons parasite control is so important, let’s take a look at what risks these pests can pose to your cherished pet and what you can do to stop them.
The life cycle of a tick includes: egg, larvae, nymph, and adult – and each female can lay thousands of eggs at a time. Ticks thrive by feeding on the blood of a host mammal, most notably wildlife, but also humans and pets.
Most people are familiar with Lyme disease, especially in our region where diagnoses have skyrocketed over the past few decades. However, did you know this parasite can also pass vector-borne diseases onto our canine and feline friends?
It’s true. In fact, ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease to dogs, as well as cytauxzoonosis and tick paralysis to cats. While you cannot catch these illnesses from your pet, animals make perfect hosts since ticks can easily hide in their coats and hitch a ride into the home.
Along with the threat of infestation, fleas also carry a number of different illnesses that go well beyond the “itch factor.” Flea bite dermatitis, an allergic reaction to flea saliva, is quite common and can lead to severe itching, hot spots, and infection.
Fleas also carry:
- Cat scratch disease
- Rickettsiae (Rocky Mountain spotted fever, typhus, etc.)
Like ticks, fleas have a four-stage life cycle: egg, larval, pupal, and adult. It can also be difficult and costly to remove these parasites from your home and other pets.
Caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, heartworm may be one of the most serious illnesses your pet will encounter. It’s difficult and costly to treat in dogs, and it’s almost always fatal in cats. Caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis, larvae travels through the bloodstream to reach the heart, lungs, and major arteries. There, adult worms develop and multiply over a period of months to years.
Year-Round Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention
By now, we hope you understand the importance of protecting your pet from these noxious parasites. Also know that parasites can continue to survive throughout winter, meaning preventives are no longer just a seasonal concern.
The best defense you can give your pet is to make sure he or she is current on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention and is screened at least yearly during a preventive care exam. We also recommend inspecting your pet each day for the presence of ticks or other signs of parasites.
To ensure your pet is up-to-date on these preventives or to ask any questions, please call your friends at Highway Veterinary Hospital.