There was a time when parasites like fleas, ticks, and roundworms were considered mostly a nuisance. Now, however, we know that parasites can cause serious illness and even death in pets. For example, ticks can transmit infections like Lyme disease, and fleas can transmit tapeworms and Bartonella – the bacteria that causes “cat-scratch fever” in humans. Another type of parasite, called a heartworm, is transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworms live in your pet’s lungs and heart, causing damage to these organs, and sometimes even death. Intestinal parasites, like roundworms and hookworms, also threaten pets and are even transmissible to humans.
You may not always be able to tell if your pet has parasites. Fleas can hide under your pet’s fur, and some ticks are very tiny (only the size of a pinhead), so they are very difficult to find. Intestinal parasites like roundworms can cause diarrhea and other problems, but many infected pets don’t show any signs of illness at all.
In addition to preventive medications, you should thoroughly check your pets for fleas and ticks on a daily basis if they’ve been outdoors. Although fleas and ticks can be anywhere on your pet’s body, they prefer posting up near the head, ears, neck and paws. You can spot evidence of fleas if you notice little black specks that resemble pepper or bits of dirt.
Both the incidence of Lyme disease from tick bites and heartworm from mosquitoes are on the rise around the country. Lyme disease is rarely fatal, but heartworm is more so because often there are no symptoms until the disease is well advanced. While there is treatment for dogs, it can be expensive and very hard on your pet.
Prevention is always the best treatment! We can recommend a schedule for parasite testing, discuss what signs of parasites you can look for at home, review ways to control parasites in and around your home, discuss treatment options if your pet has parasites, and recommend ways to control and prevent parasites in the future. We carry many different types of flea, tick and heartworm preventive and your Bartlett veterinarian can help you choose which one is right for your pet.