Pet parasite prevention is a key aspect of optimal health for dogs and cats. In the Westminster, CO area, both internal and external parasites are a threat all year, making year-round parasite prevention essential to your pet’s routine. Parasites can infect dogs and cats of any age and lifestyle, even those that are indoor-only, and external symptoms are not always apparent.
Annual parasite testing in addition to consistent prevention
are your pet’s best defense against parasites and parasite-transmitted diseases.
The most common internal parasites in our region are roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and giardia. Many of these parasites can also be spread to people, leading to other serious diseases and health issues. Puppies and kittens often need to receive deworming treatment during their initial exam visits to eliminate roundworms, which can be transmitted through nursing a roundworm-infected mother. Fortunately, this parasite is treatable and should not cause any long-term harm to your pet.
Fleas and ticks are commonly transmitted through the environment, from animal to animal, and can be tracked home on shoes or other garments of clothing. When a pet is infested with fleas or ticks, they usually show signs of itching, hair loss, allergies, anemia, and skin infections. External parasites can also carry other parasites (tapeworms) or diseases, such as Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease. If your pet has been exposed to fleas, it is likely that fleas are also present in your home, as they can often nest in furniture, cracks in the floor, and other tiny spaces. Ask our team about how to treat your home and your pets to effectively get rid of fleas.
Heartworms are, unfortunately, common in the Westminster, CO area, as they are carried by mosquitoes. Heartworm disease is potentially fatal, and in dogs usually presents with symptoms of coughing, aversion to exercise, and lethargy. For cats, the prognosis is poor, with most signs going undetected and sudden death being the most likely outcome of infection.
Heartworms are a parasitic roundworm that certainly do not belong inside our pets. Pets may show no clinical signs in the beginning stages, however, they will become more obviously ill as it progresses. Pets may begin to show decreased appetite, weight loss, and eventually breathing problems and heart failure.
The short answer is mosquitoes. Not all mosquitoes carry heartworm, but once a mosquito has bitten a heartworm positive animal, it can spread to the animal that it feeds on. Many times, a mosquito may feed on the blood of a coyote, feral cat, or other wildlife. Which is why our pets need continuous preventatives, as carrier mosquitoes could increase at any time.
The good news is that our pets don’t directly spread heartworms to one another. However, if one of your pets has heartworms, it could be a carrier and potential source of infection to other pets in the house. That said, it’s important to have all pets tested and covered by routine care.
Yes, both cats and dogs can be infected by heartworm.
In the early stages, many dogs may have no symptoms. However, the longer the infection persists, the more likely you’ll see your pup develop symptoms. Here are some of those symptoms:
- Mild cough
- Reluctance to exercise
- Fatigue after moderate activity
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Much like with dogs, symptoms for heartworm in cats can be severe or nearly noticeable. Here are a few things to watch for:
- Asthma attacks
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
There are a few ways that heartworms can be detected and diagnosed.
The first way to diagnose heartworm is through blood testing. This is the most common way, as the blood test is a simple evaluation for a toxin (heartworm antigen) that stimulates an immune response.
Sometimes an infection with only a few heartworms will not produce a positive blood test because the infection isn’t producing a significant amount of antigen. Ultimately, the blood test could take many more steps, such as CBC, thyroid, and other testing to produce an accurate result.
Other forms of testing include radiographs (x-rays), or echocardiograms.
The short answer: PREVENTION! PREVENTION! PREVENTION!
There are a few things that you can do to keep mosquitoes away from your pets, such as using screens or keeping windows and doors closed or limiting any stagnant water, the most effective option is keeping up to date on preventative.
Once your pet has been tested and proven negative, you can start your pet on either monthly medication or for even easier prevention with dogs, consider getting a PH-12 injection for 12 months of coverage.
No, heartworms do not have the ability to live in humans. People can still be infected with heartworm through the bite of an infected mosquito, but the parasite is not able to survive in the human bloodstream.
What do you know about Parasites?