No loving pet owner likes the idea of their precious animal becoming unwell. Unfortunately, pets are just as capable of contracting illness and infections as we are. Veterinary care can help many of them to recover, but in some instances, animals may be left with permanent damage to their health.
While there are many health problems that can affect your beloved pet, there are some which are entirely preventable. Among those are parasite infestations caused by fleas, ticks and heartworm.
What are parasites and how do they affect my pet?
Parasites are organisms that live either on or inside your pet’s body and use her blood to fuel their existence. In doing so, they deplete your pet of some of her much-needed nutrients. When these parasites breed and multiply it can cause their effects to worse, and in some instances, a parasite infestation can prove fatal. It is also important to be aware that some parasites, ticks in particular, carry disease. Should your pet be infected with a tick-borne disease, the health implications can become serious.
Nevertheless, by opting to give your pet the necessary preventative medications or treatment, you can protect her from the debilitating, and in some cases, life-threatening effects of parasitic infections.
Most domestic cats and dogs will experience at least one flea problem during their lifetime. These tiny, wingless creatures are notoriously difficult to spot and even harder to treat thanks to the fact that they breed at an exceptional rate. Living on the skin of your pet they bury deep into her fur and bite into her skin to drink her blood. Their saliva causes intense itching and irritation and some fleas can also carry another parasite known as tapeworm. Fleas can live quite happily in your home without a host for a number of months, and this can make treating an infestation very challenging.
Ticks are very commonly seen on pets who live in areas where there is a lot of woodland, tall grasses and other similar environments. Ticks attach to your pet when she brushes past and then migrate to deep in her fur to feed. Ticks are well known for transmitting a variety of unpleasant diseases including Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Some ticks have saliva that contains a neurotoxin which has the ability to cause your pet to experience temporary paralysis of controlled functions. If her breathing is compromised, tick paralysis can be life-threatening.
Heartworms are an internal parasite that live in your pet’s heart and lungs. They are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, which passes the immature larvae into your pet’s body. The worms quickly reproduce, blocking the heart vessels in the heart and lungs and causing permanent damage to your pet’s body. If complete congestion occurs, your pet will go into shock and is highly likely not to survive.
Flea, tick and heartworm prevention
The good news is that it is possible to protect your pet from all three of the above parasites. Even better, some preventives have been combined into one treatment or medication. This can help reduce the cost and the amount of medication that your pet needs.
The most common forms of preventive treatment include:
- Collars. These release a set amount of chemical that repels fleas and ticks.
- Oral medications. Available to protect against fleas, ticks and heartworms, these must be administered as directed. If your pet does not consume enough of the medication, he/she will not be adequately protected.
- Spot-on treatments. These are typically placed on the back of the neck and release a chemical to deter parasites and parasite-causing insects.
It is also possible to buy flea and tick preventatives to treat your home and yard. Follow the instructions on the product carefully to ensure that there are no adverse effects for your pet or family.
It is extremely important to pay close attention to the longevity of each preventative that you choose and ensure that you adhere to a strict schedule of re-administration. Failure to do so and being late with the next ‘boost’ of preventive could leave your pet vulnerable to disease. Our veterinarian will be happy to advise you on the best type of preventive for your pet. Contact our Carmel, IN clinic for further information.