Parasite Protection for the Summer Months
Many people think that pets and parasites come hand in hand, but this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, your vet will actively encourage you to seek out the appropriate preventative care so that you can protect your pet from the many different parasites that could not only make their life pretty miserable but could also put their health and even their life at risk.
While parasites do exist all year round, some are particularly prevalent in the summer season. These include mosquitos (which are responsible for transmitting heartworms between animals) and ticks, which thrive in warmer temperatures. Fortunately, there are some very effective preventatives that can be used to keep your pet safe. Here’s what you need to know about parasite protection for several of the most common parasites found during the summer months.
Heartworms and how to prevent them
Heartworms are considered to be the most dangerous internal parasite, particularly for dogs since they are the natural host of this potentially deadly organism. Unlike other worms, heartworms are transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitos, which carry a little of the infected blood with them between hosts. Once your pet is bitten, the immature heartworms found in the infected blood will travel to the blood vessels of the heart and lungs where they will live, growing until they reach maturity around 6 months later. At this point, they are around 12-14 inches in length and as they reproduce, their numbers will swell. This compromises blood flow around your pet’s body, preventing sufficient oxygenated blood from reaching their major organs and causing irreversible damage. Without treatment, blood flow can become completely blocked, causing death.
Heartworm protection is essential for all dogs, cats, and ferrets, but especially for canines who are the natural host of these parasites. Most heartworm medication is only available on prescription and can be obtained either in tablet form, which must be given every 30 days or as an injection. These injections are administered by your vet and can protect your pet for 6 or 9 months depending on which preventative you choose. Heartworm preventatives may also protect against other parasites, such as tapeworms, hookworms or whipworms.
Fleas, ticks and how to prevent them
Fleas and ticks are two of the most common external parasites to affect our animals. They both live on the skin, drinking your pet’s blood to obtain their nutrition and are wingless, either dropping or in the case of fleas jumping onto your pet when they pass by. Fleas are microscopic and so nearly impossible to spot with the naked eye. However, they do leave their feces in your pet’s fur and this looks like dirt. When brushed out and mixed with water, the dirt turns red which sets it apart from actual dirt and characterizes it as flea feces. Fleas cause intense itching and irritation, with many pets actually allergic to their saliva. They can also spread some diseases, including tapeworms.
Ticks are a little larger and can be seen without a microscope. Their bodies also grow when they fill with blood. In addition to draining blood, the saliva of some varieties has paralyzing qualities and many ticks spread serious diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme Disease.
Flea and tick preventatives are given monthly and must be given on time every time or your pet will be at risk of contracting the parasites. There is a wide range of options available, from spot-on treatments and lotions to oral medications and collars. Your vet will be able to advise you which flea and tick preventative will be most effective for your pet. Many flea and tick preventatives also protect against a number of other pests and parasites, which can minimize the number of different medications or treatments that your pet needs. You vet will be able to give you more specific advice.
For more information about parasite protection in the summer months, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our veterinary team.