This month’s theme involves fleas, ticks, and heartworms, and how we can prevent them in our pets. As it is starting to get warmer we are all looking forward to spending more time outside this summer with our “furfriends” and they could be exposed to parasites. Therefore, it's important that we keep them current on all of the parasite preventative products recommended for their lifestyle.
Let's first take a look at the *flea*, which is the most commonly known pest to both dogs, cats and us as humans. Fleas can become a big problem very quickly, and they can be hard to eliminate because there are 4
life stages to the common flea and different strategies are needed to address each stage. The *first stage* is when an adult female flea lays eggs—one flea can lay up to 40 eggs per day! This is why it is important to
pick a flea preventative that kills the adult fleas as quickly as possible, before they have a chance to lay eggs in your house. Flea eggs can take between two days and two weeks to develop depending on the temperature and humidity. The *second stage* is when the egg emerges into a larva. Larvae are blind, legless and white in color. Larvae develop over a few weeks and survive by eating pre-digested blood (flea dirt). After the larvae hatches from the egg, in about 5-20 days it will move on to the *third stage* by spinning a pupa (cocoon). The cocoon will protect the pupa inside for several days, even weeks. If the environment is not adequate for the adult flea to emerge the cocoon will protect the flea as it develops for several months. The cocoons are sticky which helps them hide deep in fabric, carpet and the animals fur which can make it hard to eliminate them at this stage. The progression of these different life stages means if you have a flea infestation, you will need to decontaminate multiple times over several weeks to months to make sure to deal with the newly hatching eggs, larvae, and pupae. The last *final stage* is the adult flea, which can live from a few weeks to months. Fleas live by feeding from a host (dog or cat). The adult fleas can bite their host many times per hour, and while some animals are not bothered by a few fleas, others can be intensely itchy and have allergic reactions to just a few flea bites. Because “flea season” lasts pretty much all year in our area, we recommend all dogs and all cats that go outdoors be treated monthly with a flea preventative. Here at Animal Hospital we recommend Nexgard (oral chewable) or Frontline Tritak (topical) for dogs and Revolution (topical) and Frontline Tritak (topical) for cats.
*Ticks*are another common parasite seen on dogs and cats who spend time outside. Ticks hang out on grass and plants and jump onto a host when they brush by. Once a tick latches on to its host it only takes 24-48 hours to transmit an infection, so it is best to use a monthly tick-preventative product if your pet is exposed to ticks. It is also important to check your pet for ticks after hiking and other outdoor activities. If your pet does get a tick attached to them, you can bring them to the veterinarian to have it removed, or you can remove it yourself at home. If you remove it yourself, take the following precautions: wear gloves to protect yourself, get a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull the tick straight out. You can also use a tick-remover device. You don't want to leave any pieces behind, because that can cause infection. Once the tick is removed it would be best to save the tick in a jar with alcohol in it so you could have the tick identified by a Veterinarian. Both Nexgard and Frontline Tritak kill ticks as well as fleas.
The third major parasite we discuss routinely is *heartworms*. Living in California, your pet has a moderate chance of being exposed to heartworms. These parasites are transmitted by mosquitoes, which carry the larva and infect pets when they bite. The larva take 6 months to mature into adult heartworms, so that’s how long after becoming infected it takes for a pet to turn up positive on a heartworm test. Heartworms can cause heart failure in dogs, and can be dangerous and expensive to treat. We recommend testing dogs annually to make sure they have not been infected, and keeping all dogs on monthly heartworm prevention. Cats do not become infected with adult heartworms as commonly as dogs do, but exposure to the larvae can cause lung disease that is similar to asthma, and a single adult worm can cause death, so we also recommend cats that go outdoors be on monthly heartworm prevention as well. These products also have the benefit of treating some of the intestinal parasites your pets might be exposed to, such as roundworms. We carry Heartgard (chewable tablet) for dogs and Revolution (topical) for cats.
If you are interested in learning more about parasites in your area, their lifecycles, and how to prevent them from infesting your pet, we recommend this website: CAPCvet.org
PROMOTIONS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS MONTH!
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Our technicians and doctors write posts for this blog, hoping to keep our clients informed and entertained. We hope you find their topics helpful and fun to read about!