Parasite Prevention is Essential for All Pets
If you live in the city, or even in a suburb, parasites may not be at the forefront of your pet care priorities—but they should be. Fleas, ticks, and heartworms are three of the most common parasites that affect our pets, whether your pet is outside frequently or indoor-only. They often carry serious diseases, some of which are zoonotic, meaning they can infect your human family, too. Learn more about these pesky pests and what you can do to protect your pet and your family.
Fleas are external parasites that feed off your pet’s blood. They are very common in most areas of the US, including Downers Grove. Their life cycle can be long and their ability to live without a host means infestations are difficult to control. Flea bites themselves can cause irritation to your pet’s skin, and sometimes your pet could also have an allergic reaction to them as well. Common signs of fleas include:
- “Flea dirt” in your pet’s coat (small dirt-like granules that are actually flea feces)
- Flea eggs (tiny, white granules)
- Excessive scratching, licking, or biting, particularly at the base of the tail
- Hair loss, scabs, and hot spots
- Allergic dermatitis
Not only do fleas affect the skin, but they can also carry tapeworms, which infect your pet with a bite. Keep in mind that tapeworms can infect humans as well, so controlling a flea infestation as soon as possible is ideal.
Ticks are similar to fleas in that they feed off your pet’s blood. However, they are different in most other aspects. Ticks do not live on your pet, but simply connect once to bite and take their blood meal. While one bite may not seem like a big deal, it can cause a lot of damage. Ticks can cause a number of complications including:
- Tick paralysis
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- And other tick-borne illnesses
It’s important to always check your dog after they have been outside in a wooded area for ticks. Comb through their hair to make sure none are on their fur or have attached to their skin. If you do find an attached tick, you will have to remove it with tweezers, or you can bring them straight to us to perform the task for you. Even if you do remove it yourself, it’s a good idea to monitor them closely and watch for any signs of behavior changes or heath problems that could indicate a tick-borne illness. Cats are also at risk, particularly outdoor cats. However, a cat’s skin sensitivity is so high, that typically, they remove the tick themselves before it has a chance to bite. Still, prevention for them is just as important as for dogs!
Heartworms are internal parasites that live in your pet’s heart and lung blood vessels. They are contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito and can cause serious damage to your pet if left untreated. Heartworms spend their entire life cycle in the heart or a blood vessel and as they grow and multiply, they slowly cause irreversible damage to your pet.
While they are most common in dogs, who are typical hosts, they can also infect cats. Cats are a-typical hosts, and often expel any contracted heartworms on their own. But if they cannot expel them, the heartworms often cause a condition known as heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD), which causes respiratory problems such as coughing, shortness of breath, and lethargy. In rare cases, some cats experience sudden death. Dogs, too, often develop respiratory problems including coughing, difficulty breathing, and tiring easily after activity. Over time, this parasite will take its toll and cause heartworm disease in dogs.
The Best Treatment is Prevention
For all of these parasites, the best way to treat them is with prevention. Preventatives should be administered to your pet throughout the year, even during the winter. Fleas can often continue their life cycle indoors; ticks can be active in weather as cold as 35 degrees Fahrenheit; and heartworms rely on the mosquito population which often emerges earlier and earlier each spring due to climate change. With year-round parasite prevention, you keep your pet safe from these harmful critters.
Contact us today to learn more about our parasite prevention options for your cat or dog. No appointment is necessary, so come on your own time.
I have been coming here for about 10 years. The staff is great. They are always accommodating to make appointments with my crazy schedule. I never have to wait long to see the doctor. -Monica S.