Fleas and Ticks and Heartworms 'Oh My'

by Dr. Peter Hill 13. June 2014 10:25

dr. peter hill

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that survive by feeding off of your cat, dog (or your) blood!  The flea uses the dog or cat as it’s host to feed, breed, and lay eggs on the host, continuing the life cycle of the pest. Fleas also carry tapeworm eggs and when ingested by the host develop into an adult tapeworm potentially causing intestinal obstruction.  Fleas also cause intense skin allergy and subsequent skin infection.

Ticks will latch on, feed then fall off, but not before potentially transmitting a list of blood borne diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  These diseases cause a multitude of symptoms from chronic fever to severe anemia. 

Heartworm is a bit different as it is contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The heartworm larvae are transmitted into the bloodstream and eventually find their way into the host’s heart. Once there, they breed and increase in numbers obstructing the heart chambers  causing symptoms that mimic heart conditions, i.e., coughing, shortness of breath, etc..

It is IMPORTANT to test a dog before starting prevention for heartworm disease, as the medication  could have dire consequences!  The test is a simple blood test that can be done on an office visit.  Heartworm prevention medication should be given either year round or Spring, Summer and Fall depending on which part of the country you reside in. Next blog I will discuss the different prevention options.

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