Fleas, Ticks, and Heartworms, Oh My! All About Pet Parasite Prevention

pet parasite preventionSpring is in full bloom here in New Jersey. Along with the beautiful blooms, breezy days, and growing grass comes a slew of insects and other creepy-crawlies, including fleas, ticks, and mosquitos carrying heartworm.

Your pet’s greatest exposure risk for these parasites reaches its peak April through November, but to be truly effective pet parasite prevention must be a year-round endeavor. Do you know the risks associated with fleas, ticks, and heartworm, and how to protect your pet?

Fleas

Fleas are certainly annoying, and they can cause plenty of suffering for pets and people alike (eradicating a flea infestation is notoriously labor intensive). But beyond their status as irritating pests, fleas can pose health risks to your pet.

A serious allergic reaction to flea saliva, known as flea allergic dermatitis (FAD), is the most common problem associated with fleas. FAD causes extreme itching and lead to hot spots in pets. Fleas can also transmit tapeworm and certain diseases, including Bartonella (cat scratch fever). In the very young or very old, debilitated pets, the infestation can be so severe that the dog or cat can become anemic.

Ticks

Ticks are well known for transmitting illnesses, some of which can be very serious. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis are just a few of the dangerous illnesses your pet, or you, could contract from a tick bite.

Besides keeping your pet on a year-round tick preventive medication, be sure to thoroughly check your pet for ticks on a regular basis, especially after any outdoor activities. Remove any ticks that you find immediately by using tweezers to slowly and steadily pull the tick out of your pet’s skin, gripping the tick as close to the skin as possible and trying not to squeeze it. After removal, it is not uncommon for the pet to have a small lump or scab present for several days.  An over the counter triple antibiotic ointment can be applied to this welt until it has a chance to heal.

Heartworm

Heartworms are transmitted via a mosquito that has bitten an infected animal. Once the larvae are deposited into a pet’s bloodstream, to the dog’s they migrate to the dog’s heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels where they continue to grow and wreak havoc on a pet’s body.

Heartworm disease is by far the deadliest parasite-related disease your pet may encounter. Treatment is available for dogs, although it’s expensive, painful and risky, but the disease is almost always fatal in cats as there is no approved treatment.

In addition to yearly heartworm testing at your pet’s wellness exams, your pet should be on a year-round heartworm preventive medication. The monthly heartworm preventative will also help control intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.

Pet Parasite Prevention

You can deter fleas, ticks, and wildlife that may be carrying pests from your property by keeping your yard trimmed and weed-free, and removing any wood or brush piles. Mosquitos lay eggs in standing water, so make sure to remove any that you find around the outside of your home.

If your pet has not been tested for heartworm within the past year or is not current on flea, tick, and heartworm preventive medications, please contact your team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital.

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