Parasites transmit severe diseases to pets, living inside or outside your four-legged friend’s body and leaching nutrients for sustenance. Fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal worms pose the highest parasitic threats to your dog’s or cat’s health, but our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Jordan Ranch team has tips, tricks, and products to keep your southeast Texas pet parasite-free. Learn about common parasites and effective prevention strategies to keep your pet healthy.
Fleas in pets
Fleas are tiny, winged parasites that live, feed, and reproduce on their hosts. After mating, female fleas lay eggs in a pet’s fur, and they can also fall into your four-legged friend’s environment, where the pests hatch into larvae, pupate, and become adults. Despite having wings, fleas cannot fly, but they can jump great distances compared with their body size, jumping on and biting passing pets and people.
Flea infestations are challenging to eliminate because they live on a pet and in their environment, which requires year-round pet treatment, daily cleaning, and home vacuuming. Fleas can transmit diseases to pets, ranging from tapeworms to the rodent plague, and can also lead to flea bite allergy dermatitis (FAD), an intensely itchy skin condition.
Ticks in pets
Ticks thrive in heavily wooded environments and areas where tall grasses grow. They must feed on a host’s blood to mate or molt into their next life cycle phase. Ticks can carry and transmit multiple bacterial diseases from host to host, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and babesiosis. These diseases can lead to a pet’s acute generalized illness and may progress to a chronic state, damaging their vital organs, such as the kidneys.
Heartworms in pets
Mosquitoes can transmit heartworms to your pet’s vascular system, where they grow into foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs, and nearby blood vessels. The worms cause inflammation that damages these vital organs, and some pets may develop heart failure or die. Treatment for dogs is painful and costly, requiring several months of strict activity restriction. No safe treatments exist for cats. Prevention is vital to prevent heart damage and avoid intensive therapies.
Intestinal parasites in pets
Despite your pet receiving routine dewormers, intestinal parasites have a tricky way of perpetuating their life cycle. When a worm infects a young pet, some larvae migrate into muscle tissue and become dormant. Deworming medications cannot kill these larvae, and they remain inactive unless the infected pet is female and becomes pregnant. The larvae then reactivate so she can pass the worms onto her offspring, and the cycle begins again.
Common intestinal parasites include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, Giardia, and coccidia. Pets with worms often have a pot-bellied appearance and may develop diarrhea or anemia because of chronic blood loss. Most intestinal parasites are easily treated with medications, but if a small or young pet has a heavy parasite load, the infection can be fatal.
Parasite testing in pets
To facilitate early detection and appropriate treatment, annual or semiannual routine parasite testing is recommended. Your veterinarian may perform these tests:
- Fecal floatation — A fecal float uses a special technique to prepare a microscope slide and check for parasite eggs and cells.
- Heartworm test — A heartworm blood test checks for evidence of female heartworms.
- Tick-borne disease test — This blood screening test, recommended annually for dogs who frequent tick habitats, can identify if a pet has been exposed to tick-borne disease.
Parasite prevention and control in pets
You can treat your pet with an oral or topical parasite prevention your veterinarian has prescribed. These medications provide your pet with long-lasting protection against multiple parasites. Regularly administered year-round preventives are essential to your pet’s health, killing parasites before they can reproduce or transmit disease. While the market is constantly introducing new products that offer different parasite coverage ranges, most pets need two products:
- Flea/tick prevention — Oral or topical formulas protect pets against fleas and ticks for up to three months, depending on the manufacturer and formulation.
- Heartworm/intestinal parasite prevention — Oral or topical formulas kill immature heartworms and intestinal parasites to prevent adult infections for one month.
Purchase your pet’s parasite preventives through our veterinary office, because doing so ensures that the manufacturer guarantees stay intact, and you’re eligible for rebates that help you save on costs. If your pet develops a parasitic disease, the product’s manufacturer will pay for your four-legged friend’s treatment only if you can prove that you purchased the medication from your veterinarian and correctly administered it to your pet based on their recommendation.
Your pet’s health depends on effective preventive care, including parasite control and prevention. Contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Jordan Ranch team with questions about parasite prevention, parasites’ potential impact on your pet, and the products that will best meet your furry pal’s needs.
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