Heartworm and Fleas and Ticks…OH MY!

Now that it is getting warmer out, it is very important to keep your pet up to date on heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives. Although they are less prevalent during the winter, parasites are still found, so ideally preventatives should be administered year-round. It is also important to have heartworm and tick-borne disease screening done annually, especially if the pet has not been receiving preventatives on a regular basis. This blood test allows diseases to be diagnosed early, even when the pet isn’t showing any symptoms and provides us with useful information on their long-term health.  

Ticks can be found on grass and leaves and will crawl onto pets that pass nearby. They then feed on blood from their host and once engorged, eventually drop off. Ticks are not species specific and will feed on humans as well. They have the ability to transfer diseases such as lyme disease, anaplasma, ehrlichia, and others that can make you and your pet ill. 

Pets often contract fleas by interacting with other infected animals. However, humans can also unknowingly transport these parasites. Flea eggs are extremely sticky and can stick to the bottom of shoes and paws, making them easy to accidentally bring home. Flea eggs can remain viable in the environment for up to 2 weeks. Once fully grown, adult fleas will find a host to live on and feed on their blood. Fleas can also be found in the environment after dropping off infected animals, as well as at more immature life stages. They are extremely difficult to rid from the environment and often require the help of an exterminator. Severe flea infestation can lead to anemia in pets. Some fleas also carry tapeworm and can transfer it to their hosts if ingested, causing weight loss and GI upset.

Heartworm disease, although often seen in Southern states, is slowly becoming more prevalent towards the East Coast. The parasite that causes heartworm disease, Dirofilaria immitis, is passed on by infected mosquitos when taking a blood meal. The parasite then moves from the injected site to the pet’s bloodstream and heart, growing along the way. Symptoms of heartworm disease include persistent cough, exercise intolerance, lethargy, and possibly heart failure, however, pets may be asymptomatic until it is too late. Treating heartworm disease can be very hard on animals and can be fatal, which is why preventing it is the kinder and safer way to go.

There are several heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives available, whether you prefer oral or topical administration and Norwalk Animal Hospital can help you decide which may be best for your pet. Purchasing these products from your primary veterinarian is recommended to ensure that you are receiving safe and reliable products straight from the manufacturers. Please call Norwalk Animal Hospital to purchase your preventatives today!