If your cat or dog spends times outdoors and/or around other animals, then they are inherently at risk for exposure to fleas, ticks, and other bugs. We live in this wonderful space called Marin county. With the abundance of open space and wildlife comes their parasites. Even a completely indoor pet can become infected, as we can bring fleas from the environment into the home on our clothing, and any other people or animals that come into your home can also bring these pests with them. Because the temperature and humidity conditions inside your home are fairly stable, fleas can live there with relative ease. Once in the home, fleas can multiply very well under favorable year-round conditions, adding to the challenge of controlling them in a home environment.
There are many products out there to protect your pet from fleas, ticks and heartworm. In order to determine which products might work best for you and your pet’s lifestyle, there are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Is your pet outside often?
- Does he stray from your property?
- Do you take your pet to remote areas for exercise or play: hunting, hiking in the woods, etc?
- Does your pet have a lot of contact with other pets, like at a dog park, or do you have multiple pets in the home?
- Can you easily remember to regularly give your pet the flea and heartworm preventative, or would you prefer the most convenient product?
- Do you have a particular budget in mind?
- Do you have a preference between oral or topical preventatives?
Without adequate year-round parasite protection, your animal may be at risk for several kinds of health problems, including:
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is a common allergic reaction to fleas that can lead to red, itchy, ‘hot spots’ on the skin. If your pet is plagued with flea allergies you may see hair loss, intense scratching of self, chewing and biting at the tail, and open or oozing sores. This can cause your pet extreme discomfort.
Lyme Disease and Anaplasmosis
Both diseases are caused by bacteria that are transmitted from ticks into dogs and people when bitten. The most common symptoms are lethargy (excessively tired, listless), lameness/limping, fever, and decreased appetite. Many dogs develop a mild case after being exposed to these bacteria and have no symptoms, however, there are some that can get quite sick. These dogs often require hospitalization, IV fluids, and antibiotics, and once the patient is stable to go home, they are treated for about 1 month with oral antibiotics. With Lyme disease, there is also a very small number of our patients who will develop Lyme nephritis (a form of kidney disease) that can have lifelong consequences.
Cats are most often infected with Bartonella (the bacteria that cause ‘cat scratch fever’ in people) through flea bites. While some cats become ill, most simply carry the bacteria in their blood without getting sick. Some studies have found the Bartonella bacteria in the blood of up to 1/3 of healthy cats, particularly kittens. Cat-scratch disease commonly presents in humans as tender, swollen lymph nodes near the site of the inoculating bite or scratch or on the neck, and is usually limited to one side. Other symptoms include fever, malaise, decreased appetite and aches.
These parasites are long, flat worms that attach themselves to your pet’s intestines. Tapeworm infections are caused by your pet ingesting a host (most often an adult flea) that is harboring tapeworm eggs. You will most likely notice small white worms that look like grains of rice or seeds on the rear end of your pet, your pet’s feces, or where your pet lives and sleeps. There are a few ways a dog might ingest a flea, such as self-grooming, or grooming a canine or feline housemate, predation of a rodent or ingestion of another animal’s stool.
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and, once mature, they live in the heart and large blood vessels of the lungs. Adult heartworms can measure over one foot in length. They are extremely dangerous for your animal, as they can block blood flow to the heart, lungs, and other important organs. Symptoms and complications of heartworm in a cat or dog include fatigue, weight loss, persistent cough, and decreased activity. If left untreated, heartworms can lead to abdominal swelling, organ failure, and even death.
With your answers in mind, the doctors at Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital can help you decide which preventative medication is best for you, taking into consideration your lifestyle and budget.
Call us to schedule an appointment today! (415) 479-8535