Parasites like fleas, ticks, and heartworms are a constant threat to dogs and cats if they are not adequately protected. That’s why we strongly recommend
parasite testing and monthly, year-round preventative measures. At Front Range Veterinary Clinic, protecting your pet from external and internal pests is all part of what we do here in Fort Collins, CO. If you ever have questions or concerns related to pet parasites, reach out to us today!
Intestinal parasites we most often see in pets include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. All of these pests are common here, and one of the dangers of contracting an intestinal parasite is that your dog or cat may not show immediate outward signs of infection. With annual or biannual parasite screenings, our doctors can check your pet for signs of intestinal parasites and provide treatment right away. We can also recommend quality parasite control medications to help your companion stay pest-free. Without treatment, intestinal parasites can cause illness in your pet, with symptoms that may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and loss of appetite.
Other parasite threats include fleas and ticks. Both can be passed on to your pet from another animal, but they can also be picked up from the environment, especially if that environment is wooded and/or grassy. Your yard could very well be the perfect hiding place for fleas and ticks! It is also important to check your clothing before entering the house, as you might unknowingly bring the critters into your home. Check your pet’s coat, ears, and paws carefully before they come in, too.
Notable issues fleas and ticks can cause in pets include allergies, anemia, hair loss, itchy skin, and skin infections (often worsened by licking and scratching). Ticks can spread diseases such as Lyme disease (transmittable among pets and people), Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fleas can infect dogs with tapeworms if they accidentally get ingested.
At Front Range Veterinary Clinic, we recommend year-round flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats. This is the single best way to protect your pet and prevent the spread and development of flea and tick-borne diseases. Fleas are especially difficult to deal with if your pet brings them into your home – complete eradication of the pests can be an arduous process.
Heartworms are another ongoing health hazard for dogs and cats, making year-round prevention essential! These worms are spread to animals by mosquitoes, which are unfortunately common here in Colorado (as well as surrounding states). Prevention coupled with routine screenings is key to preventing heartworm disease in pets and keeping the community healthier and safer for our animal companions.
Life happens and sometimes, we forget to give our dogs their monthly heartworm medication. To ensure you don’t miss a dose, Front Range Veterinary Clinic offers ProHeart 12, which provides protection for 12 months, respectively. This means you don’t have to worry about forgetting a dose.
Heartworms are parasitic roundworms and unlike intestinal roundworms, these prefer to live in your pet’s heart and lungs. Clinical signs of heartworm disease can take up to half a year to show, and include loss of appetite, weight loss, breathing difficulties, and lethargy. Heart failure is the ultimate outcome of heartworm infection if treatment is not administered soon enough. This means it can be fatal in dogs, and it has a high fatality rate in cats as well.
The main vector for heartworm disease spread is the mosquito, though not all mosquitoes carry heartworm larvae. A mosquito that is carrying heartworm larvae will pass the larvae on to the animal host when they feed on them. This animal then becomes a carrier of heartworms and a new source of infection for other animals.
Unfortunately, both cats and dogs can get heartworm disease if they aren’t fully protected.
Early stages of heartworm disease may not show any outward signs. When infection persists, however, your dog might have these symptoms:
- Mild, chronic coughing
- Exercise reluctance
- Easily fatigued
- Weight loss
- Breathing heavily
Cats with advanced heartworm disease could exhibit signs such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Chronic coughing
- Asthma attacks
Sudden death can also occur in cats with heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is primarily diagnosed by running a blood test. This blood test evaluates your pet’s blood for heartworm antigens.
The drawback to this test is that it may not produce a positive result if your pet is still in the earliest stages of infection. Additional testing may be required to detect the antigens and make an accurate diagnosis.
Other methods of detecting heartworm disease include X-rays and echocardiograms.
Consistent prevention is the best way to protect your pet from heartworms. It halts the heartworm life cycle, so the larvae are killed before they can mature and block the arteries around your pet’s heart and lungs.
Other protective measures you can take include reducing the presence of mosquitoes around your pet. Screens, closed doors and windows, and citronella candles can repel mosquitoes, and getting rid of any stagnant water around your property is helpful, too.
Fortunately, humans cannot develop heartworm disease. While infection from a mosquito bite can happen, the heartworm larvae cannot survive in your bloodstream.
What do you know about parasites?