Now that summer has arrived, our pets are spending more time outdoors, which can put them at risk for fleas and other harmful parasites. The good news is that pet owners can prevent these problems before they start.
“Especially during these summer months, preventative care for your pets is important when it comes to parasites," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. "Because it’s very easy for them to pick up fleas, for example. The treatment is much more expensive than the preventative maintenance is.”
The research team at Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews, asked highly rated veterinarians about common parasites and how to prevent them.
- While you should administer heartworm prevention medication year-round, it’s especially vital that you give your pet a preventive when the weather gets warmer. Heartworm, a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal, spreads through mosquitoes.
- Preventing heartworm disease in dogs is much easier than treating it, a process that usually takes a series of injections, hospitalization and exercise restriction. Some cats can fight off the disease themselves, but no approved treatments exist in the U.S. for feline heartworm.
- Dog or cat heartworm preventives come in the form of a monthly chewable. However, you’ll need to obtain a prescription from your veterinarian, who may require a heartworm test before supplying the medication.
Make fleas flee
- Fleas, parasites that feed on blood, can jump up to 2 feet in the air, which makes your four-legged friend’s fur their personal breeding ground.
- Flea bites itch, which can lead to excessive scratching, licking and biting at the skin. In addition to skin irritation, fleas can cause hair loss and tapeworms in both cats and canines. Dogs with particularly bad reactions to fleas may get hot spots, or red, itchy spots on the skin that often appear moist and oozing.
- Even if your feline friend never takes a single step outdoors, you should still administer flea preventives since humans easily track fleas in from outdoors.
- Flea preventives may be administered in pill form or through a topical treatment. Some brands offer both flea and heartworm prevention.
Turn away ticks
- Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other illness to dogs. Cats can also contract sicknesses similar to Lyme disease.
- Signs of Lyme disease in dogs include lameness from inflammation in their joints, lack of appetite and depression. If the disease progresses, it can damage the kidneys.
- A vet can treat the disease with antibiotics, but your dog may be left with lingering joint pain
- If you live in an area with high tick infestations, such as in southern states or heavily wooded areas of the Northeast, be sure to treat your pet.
- To prevent ticks, apply a topical treatment ¬— most flea preventives also kill ticks ¬— or fit them with a tick collar.
“The important thing to keep in mind when it comes to pet and parasites is they don’t just impact your pet," said Hicks. "For example, I recently heard from a woman who had an indoor cat and the cat got out one day and came back with fleas. So, not only did she have to treat the pet, but she also had to try to rid her home of fleas as well, which is not an easy task.”
Bottom line: talk to your vet. There are very effective products that protect against all of these parasites at a fraction of the cost for treating their effects and getting rid of them. The best source for these products is your veterinarian. He or she is has extensive knowledge of the parasite life cycles and the products used to protect our pets and our environment.