Does your pet have parasites? It’s not always easy to tell. That’s why
is so important, and why we recommend monthly pet flea and tick prevention to keep your four-legged family member protected and healthy.
Common Intestinal Parasites in Pets
Dogs and cats are both vulnerable to intestinal parasites if they are not taking a monthly preventative. These parasites often include roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and giardia, and can find their way to your pet (and possibly into your home) more easily than you might think. The eggs of these parasites can end up on the soles of your shoes or be found in potting soil. Whether your pet is indoors all the time or outdoors most of the time, intestinal worms are a threat.
Puppies and kittens often come in for their initial visit and test positive for roundworms. Worms may cause bloating of the abdomen and diarrhea in pets. We can provide treatment to eliminate these parasites and restore your pet to good health and administer preventative medication to keep the pests at bay.
Why Flea & Tick Prevention is Important
Fleas and ticks are external parasites, which means that unlike intestinal worms, they do not end up inside your pet but rather feed from the outside by attaching to the skin. Dogs and cats can pick up fleas and ticks from their environment, but they can also get them from other pets. Dog parks, yards, and patios are common dwelling places for fleas and ticks, and sometimes humans can unknowingly bring these pests into the house if they attach to shoes or clothing.
Some signs your pet may have fleas or ticks include scratching the skin, hair loss, allergies, and skin infections. Dogs and cats may also suffer from anemia if their infestation is severe enough.
Flea and tick prevention is crucial for pets because fleas can become a major nuisance both for your pet and for the rest of your family, and they are extremely difficult to get rid of once they invade your home. Ticks are capable of transmitting diseases to animals as well as humans, including Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis, which can cause serious illness.
As with intestinal parasites, preventing flea and tick infestations requires giving your pet a monthly preventative. If your family is facing a flea infestation at home, our team can advise you on what to do and provide flea treatment to your pet.
What are Heartworms?
Heartworms are a type of roundworm that live inside the arteries around the heart and lungs. They do not affect humans, as heartworm larvae cannot survive in the human bloodstream, but they can be a serious threat to our pets. Without a monthly heartworm preventative or timely treatment, heartworm disease can be fatal for both dogs and cats.
Heartworm disease is a condition in which parasitic roundworms take up residence in the heart and lungs of a pet. When this happens, the worms grow and begin to block the arteries, forcing the heart and lungs to work much harder. In the early stages of disease, a dog or cat may not show any sign of illness or discomfort. It can take months for clinical signs to occur. However, as the disease progresses, the pet may exhibit a loss of appetite, weight loss, breathing difficulties, and eventual heart failure.
Mosquitoes are the prime driver of heartworm disease spread among dogs and cats. While not all mosquitoes are vectors for heartworms, they are the only ones capable of infecting our pets with the parasite. When a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae bites a dog or cat, the larvae enter the animal’s bloodstream.
Fortunately, pets cannot spread heartworm disease to one another. However, they can become a source of infection for any mosquitoes that bite them, and if that mosquito bites another pet, that pet becomes a carrier as well.
Yes, cats and dogs can both be vulnerable to heartworm disease.
It can take months following infection before any signs of illness occur in a dog. As time goes by, the following symptoms may become apparent:
- Mild, chronic coughing
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Fatigue after just moderate activity
- Exercise reluctance
Cats also do not show signs of illness right after becoming infected with heartworms. If/when they do show signs, they usually include:
- Lack of appetite
- Asthma attacks
- Weight loss
Sudden death is also possible. There is no available heartworm treatment regimen for cats (as there is for dogs), so prevention is essential.
Heartworm disease is primarily diagnosed via blood testing. A typical heartworm test checks for heartworm antigens in your pet’s bloodstream. The problem with this test is that it may get a negative result if the infection occurred very recently. Additional testing may be required to detect the heartworm antigens. X-rays and echocardiograms may also be used to diagnose heartworm disease.
Prevention is the best way to protect your dog or cat from heartworm. Chimacum Valley Veterinary Hospital carries various heartworm preventatives to give your pet maximum protection. We also recommend annual heartworm testing to make sure your pet remains heartworm-free.
Additional measures you can take include limiting your pet’s exposure to mosquitoes with mosquito nets, keeping windows and doors closed, and getting rid of standing water around your home. These measures are helpful but not foolproof, so make sure your pet stays current with their monthly heartworm preventative.
While people can get infected with heartworms, the heartworms cannot survive inside the human body, so they are not a threat.