April is many things; Heartworm Awareness month, Pet First Aid Awareness Month, and most obvious to us, the beginning of spring. As it gets warmer and the snow melts, we begin to get out more with our pets. With the longer days and nicer temperatures, we begin seeing more pests, including fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. If you protect your pet from these pests year-round, you are ahead of the curve. If your pet does not receive preventative therapy, it is time to get back on schedule, so your pet doesn’t suffer the consequences of an internal or external parasite infection.
External parasites are the most obvious of all parasites since we can see them hitching a ride on our pets. Dog and cat fleas are not a common concern in our area, but some species of wildlife do carry fleas that can spread disease when they contact our pets. Should your pet ingest such fleas, it could result in a tapeworm infection. Ticks carry a variety of diseases that include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis. If you travel outside of Colorado, there are other species of fleas and ticks that can carry other diseases/parasites such as Lyme disease. So what is the best thing to do? Protect your pet against as many parasites as possible. The most effective protection against fleas and ticks is a monthly dose of either an oral pill or a topical treatment.
Heartworms are a parasite carried by mosquitoes. The worms have a long, complex life cycle. This means that a dog that has contracted heartworm won’t show a positive test result for six months. So just seeing mosquitoes around doesn’t mean that is the only time of year you have to worry. Where were you and your pet six months ago? A missed dose of preventative can have severe consequences depending on where you may have been and when you missed the dose. With the increase in environmental temperatures, the range of mosquitoes is also growing. Heartworms were not previously endemic to our area, but that is changing. The safest choice to make for your pet is to give heartworm preventative each month all year.
The American Heartworm Society states that preventatives are highly effective but not 100% because resistance has developed in some areas. It is recommended to test your pet every year and give preventative year-round. The treatment for heartworm disease is costly and has potentially serious, possibly deadly, side effects on the pet. It is much cheaper and safer to prevent a heartworm infestation than to treat one!
Heartworm prevention has come a long way in recent years. The most common heartworm prevention option is an oral tablet that you give your dog once a month. One option that has come out recently is Simparica Trio. This medication prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, AND fleas and ticks. One-stop treatment! Other oral options that do not treat external parasites often treat more internal parasites, including tapeworms which are common in our area. The newest option for heartworm prevention is called ProHeart. This is an injection that prevents heartworms for an entire year with only one dose. The downside of ProHeart is that it does not treat other internal or external parasites. Many of our clients opt for an oral preventative for heartworm and another for external parasites.
With all the options out there, it is relatively easy to keep your pet protected from both internal and external parasites of all varieties. Choose the best option that fits into you and your pet’s lifestyle and your budget. Just make sure you are protecting your pet and thinking about how keeping them healthy and parasite free will improve and prolong their life.