With the warm weather finally upon us, Westway Animal Clinic is as busy as ever. There are several nasty parasites that threaten summer fun for our pets and so I want to dedicate this blog to some facts about ticks, fleas, intestinal parasites and heartworm.
Let’s start with fleas as they are both fascinating and pesky. A single female flea will begin laying eggs 24 hours after feeding and mating, producing 40-50 eggs per day! Flea eggs fall off an infested pet as they move around and so, if your pet does end up with fleas, you must treat your pet and your home in order to ensure they will not return. Once they hatch, fleas can jump 50-100 times their body length thanks to an elastic pad (made from a protein called resilin) in their legs. Of course, biting your pet isn’t the only concern, many species of fleas can feed on humans and so, you too could end up being bitten by fleas if your pet brings them home. Your pet does not have to come into contact with other flea infested animals in order to get fleas themselves; simply going into your yard after a flea infested animal (like a stray cat, squirrel or rabbit) can expose them to flea eggs that have been left behind. Another very alarming thing about fleas is that they transmit tapeworms which means that, if you pet has fleas, they usually have tapeworms and vice versa!
Tapeworms are not the only intestinal parasite we worry about in the warmer temperatures. Roundworms are a real threat in both dogs and cats. Roundworm eggs are commonly found in soil making them easily accessible to both pets and children. If these eggs are ingested (usually a danger associated with children and unwashed hands) the larvae migrate throughout the body and can create serious health issues. For more information on these and other intestinal parasites like whipworms and hookworms I would encourage you to watch this video from The Pet Health Network.
While fleas are difficult to see with the naked eye and most intestinal parasites cannot be diagnosed without a stool test to determine if microscopic eggs are present, ticks are a parasite we can see. April to November is when we are most likely to see ticks in Ontario. Ticks attach themselves to the surface of your pets’ skin and suck their blood, potentially exposing your pet to lyme disease (and other tick-borne diseases) while doing so. There are several preventative medication options for your pet if they are going to be in wooded or grassy areas, or if you are taking them to areas in Ontario that are notorious for high tick populations (like the shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River). It is important that we discuss whether or not your pet might be at risk for tick exposure as symptoms associated with tick-borne diseases are difficult to recognize (in both pets and people) so prevention is key. There is a significant increase in the number of cases of Lyme disease in humans over the past few years and, with this knowledge, we want to ensure that our pets don’t fall victim to this disease. We have a very simple blood test that not only allows us to screen your pet for tick-borne diseases, but also heartworm disease, something that pet owners have come to associate spring and pet ownership with.
I would encourage you to read my blog focused on heartworm if you haven’t already. As it suggests, this disease is literally caused by worms living in the heart of the infected pet. A heartworm infection will cause progressive lung disease and secondary heart problems. Both dogs and cats can die from this disease, something that surprises cat owners as heartworm disease has historically been thought of as a “dog” disease. Check out this video on the 7 Deadly Truths About Heartworm Disease in Cats to learn more.
If your dog contracts heartworm disease it is very difficult to treat but, even worse is that there is no approved treatment for cats that test heartworm positive. If you have any questions about how heartworm disease may affect your pet you might enjoy the pet owner resources available through the American Heartworm Society.
It is important to us that our pet owners have all the facts on these summer time problems. While a simple-to-apply monthly topical medication like Revolution can be used to protect your pet from heartworms, fleas and ear mites, the Westway Animal Clinic team wants to work with you to customize an approach that is right for your pet. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you to ensure that the only thing your pet has to worry about this summer is working on their tan!