Heartworm, Fleas, Ticks & Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal Worms and Parasites

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roundworm_infection_1_2009At Mountain Animal Hosptial we know that your pets are part of your family and, if your like us, they probably share your couches, beds, and even countertops at times. Unfortunately this means that they easily have the potential to share more than just love and snuggles with us.   To ensure the health of every family member its important not to forget about these microscopic and disease causing bugs.

Intestinal worms and other intestinal parasites can cause severe disease in cats and dogs, especially puppies and kittens.  Many of them also have the potential to infect people.  Young children, elderly and immunocompromised (those with weakened immune systems) people are most at risk.  In order to prevent your pet and your family from becoming infected we recommend you talk to your veterinarian about setting up a parasite prevention plan.  Every pet and family will have different risks to consider and these risks will likely change from year to year.  We strive to revisit and adjust the plan with you yearly at your pet’s annual comprehensive exam.  However, you can make an appointment anytime to discuss and set up parasite prevention measures for your pet.

Individual intestinal parasites of the dog and cat are listed below.  Simply click on the parasite name to learn more.

Dog Parasites

Roundworms

Hookworms

Whipworms

Tapeworms

Echinococcus Multilocularis Tapeworm *NEW*

Giardia

Coccidia

 

Cat Parasites

Roundworms

Hookworms

Tapeworms

Giardia

Coccidia

Toxoplasma

Fleas

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flea_control1Understanding the Flea Life Cycle

The most common flea found on cats and dogs is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). Adult fleas consume a blood meal multiple times per hour.  The female can lay 27 eggs per day within 24-48 hours after her first blood meal.  These eggs fall off the pet and can hatch within 10 day or may stay in the environment for up to 133 days if there is no host present.  These eggs then hatch into larva, which eat organic debris for 5-12 days.  They then change into a pupae, the most resistant life stage.  They will emerge as an adult in as early as 8-9 days or may wait for many months until the conditions are right.   Newly hatched adult fleas jump onto a host animal to complete their life cycle.  Under ideal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in as little as two weeks; in adverse conditions, the cycle can take as much as a year.

 

How Fleas Affect Dogs and Cats

The most common symptom of a flea infestation we see in pets is itchy skin.  Some animals will scratch excessively leading to secondary skin infections.  Occasionally animals can become allergic to flea bites.  In these cases as little as one bite can result in excessive scratching, self trauma and secondary skin infections.  Young or even older debilitated animals can actually become quite ill and anemic (low red blood cell count) if they have a large enough flea burden.   The flea also acts as the intermediate host for tapeworms.  When pets swallow an infected flea while grooming, the tapeworm larva will develop into an adult tapeworm. Any animal with fleas is likely also to have a tapeworm infestation. It is recommended to treat your pet for tapeworms if they have been found to have fleas.

How to Treat a Flea Infestation

Although most over-the-counter topical insecticides will kill adult fleas, most have limited effectiveness because they only work for a few hours after application. This is particularly true of flea shampoos and powders; they kill fleas present on your pet at the time of application but have little residual effect; the following day the pet may again have fleas. Flea collars may seem very convenient but they don’t work well and are not recommended. Furthermore, flea collars, especially ones with a strong pesticide smell, may be harmful, or may cause a skin reaction or rash.  Some over-the-counter topical insecticides are even toxic and deadly for cats.  Using these products can not only be dangerous but usually end up being costly due to their ineffectiveness.

Luckily there are safe, fast and extremely effective flea treatments and medications available through your veterinarian.  All the fleas on your pet will die within 24 hours of the first treatment.  Each treatment works for a full 4 weeks to kill any live fleas that jump on your pet.  A flea infestation can be taken care of in as little as 3 monthly treatments. These products not only eliminate fleas from your pet, they also will work to kill fleas in the environment eliminating the need to spay pesticides on your home.  It is important that all the pets in the house are treated otherwise the fleas will continue to live on the untreated pet and the infestation cannot be eliminated.

How to Prevent a Flea Infestation

The best way to avoid a flea infestation in your home is to use a monthly flea preventative medication during the warmer months.  Prevention starts in June and extends to November.  November may seem late but we actually see most cases of flea infestation in the late summer and fall.  The chance of contracting fleas doesn’t decrease until we start to see frost. Any pet that goes outdoors, even if it is just to sit on the front porch, should be on a flea preventative.  Also, be aware that indoor cats can also become infested with fleas!  They can be contracted simply when you cat sits in a screened in windowsill.  You are also able to carry fleas and eggs in the house on your own clothing and shoes.  In some instances year round flea prevention may be necessary.  For example, some apartment dwelling pets can be at risk year round as fleas can travel from one apartment to the next.

If you have any further questions about flea treatment or prevention please do not hesitate to call us at (905) 385-5354.

 

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license (Modified by Mountain Animal Hospital October 9, 2013.

 

 

 

Heartworm Disease

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Heartworm Disease in Dogs

 

Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are parasites that infect dog (and rarely cats).  The worms live in the veins near the heart and cause direct damage to the heart and lungs.  They can also damage other organs in the body by reducing blood flow.

The heartworm is transmitted to pets through mosquito bites.  When a mosquito feeds on a dog with heartworm disease larva (immature heartworms) enter the mosquito from the dog.  These larva then grow inside the mosquito to a stage that is able to infect other dogs.  The mosquito then bites another dog and infects them with heartworm disease.  Dogs can become infected with heartworms through as little as one mosquito bite.  Wild dogs, such as coyotes, can also become infected with heartworm disease and act as reservoir since they cannot be treated.  This is important to know because having a heartworm positive animal locally greatly increases the chances that mosquitoes in that area will be carrying heartworm disease. Click here to watch a video about heartworm disease transmission

Hamilton is within the area that sees the highest incidence of heartworm disease within Canada (around the southern great lakes).  For this reason we take the risk of heartworm disease very seriously and recommend the pets be tested and take prevention medication during the mosquito season (usually June – November).  It is also important to keep in mind that pets travelling to warmer areas in the United States during the winter months may also need heartworm protection.  Please ask your veterinarian if you are planning to travel.

Treatment for heartworm disease in available but it is expensive, lengthy and can be risky to the patient.  It can take up to 3-4 months to treat and involves at least 2 months of cage rest.  The cost can easily escalate to over $1000 dollars.   Prevention is much easier and less costly.  Testing and prevention can cost as little as $120 – $160 yearly depending on the weight of your dog.  There are multiple types of prevention medication available for either topical or oral administration.  Some are also combined with flea preventatives to eliminate the need to give two different medications.  Whichever you choose, it is important that they be given once monthly (ever 30 days) during the mosquito season to work properly and ensure your pet is protected from heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease testing starts April 15th  2013.  Please call us at (905) 385-5354 to book your dogs appointment or to discuss any further questions.

Click here to read more about Heartworm Disease

Click here to watch a video interview with Dr. Rubin of the American Heartworm Society discussing heartworm disease.

 

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