During Flea and Tick Prevention Month, we encourage you to learn more about the damage caused by these parasites and the importance of year-round protection. To fully appreciate the importance of parasite prevention, consider that we diagnosed 562 cases of tick disease and 11 cases of heartworm disease in dogs during 2015.
According to the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, fleas are the most common external parasite that threaten the health of companion animals. They live from two weeks to one year and can produce millions of offspring in that time. Fleas are wingless insects that survive by feeding on the blood of a host animal. Signs that your dog or cat could have fleas include:
• Loss of fur
• Flea dirt in the coat that looks like grains of sand
• Persistent scratching, biting, or licking skin
• Developing allergies
• Flea eggs that appear as tiny white grains
• Pale gums and lips
• Developing cat scratch disease
• Anemia due to severe blood loss
Ticks also feed on the blood of host animals, although their presence does not cause as many obvious symptoms as fleas. To starting feeding on host blood, a tick first burrows its head into the skin. It's most common to find ticks on your pet's head, ears, neck, and feet. Unlike fleas, pet owners can usually spot a single tick with the naked eye. They are the size of a pinhead before they bite and then swell up as they gorge with blood. If you spot one, pull it out with a pair of tweezers and then place it in a jar containing alcohol to kill it.
Ticks can inflict pets with serious diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasmosis. Additional complications include anemia from blood loss, paralysis, and skin irritation. If your pet displays signs of an infection such as fever, vomiting, or lethargy, contact Grantsburg Animal Hospital immediately for an evaluation.
Your pet can get heartworm from a single mosquito bite if the mosquito has bitten an infected animal. Once inside your pet's body, the heartworm can grow to a foot long and live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of your pet. Heartworm can also reproduce rapidly, causing lung disease, organ failure, or even death. Sadly, some pets don't display any symptoms until heartworm disease is advanced. Typical signs of heartworm infestation in dogs include a persistent cough, loss of appetite, fatigue, intolerance of exercise, and weight loss. Cats display the same symptoms in addition to vomiting and difficulty walking.
The veterinarians at Grantsburg Animal Hospital recommend Bravecto for the best protection from fleas and ticks for dogs. Bravecto is a chewable supplement that comes in several different flavors and sizes. Your dog thinks he is getting a treat and you only have to give it to him once every three months. We carry several additional canine and feline flea and tick prevention products in our online store and in all three clinics, including collars, shampoos, drops, and spot-on kits.
We also recommend Heartgard to protect against heartworm for both dogs and cats. Heartgard is a monthly chew that provides your pet with unparalleled protection from this aggressive parasite.
Image credit: MeePoohyaphoto| iStock Photo