Parasite season is heading this way!
Parasite Season is coming!
Yes, yes, yes, we know it’s currently 10 degrees out and we all feel like we’re living in Siberia. But believe it or not, though it may not look like it now, spring is headed this way! And with the sweet warmer months nearing, there also comes mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and worms: a menagerie of tiny creatures that would just love to grab a hold of your furry friend and settle down for their next meal. As a result, we’ve decided to compile some helpful information about seasonal parasite testing and protection, in order to help you protect your pets against those lurking pests all year round.
Every spring, when you bring your pet in for his yearly vaccines and check up, we recommend the following:
1) Heartworm Test and continue Heartworm Prevention (Dogs primarily)
2) Fecal Parasite Test and Intestinal Parasite Protection
3) Flea and Tick Check, and Flea and Tick Protection
In order to make these topics a bit more clear, we’ll divide it into three different sections. Today, let’s begin with Heartworm Testing and Heartworm Prevention:
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a mosquito borne illness caused by an infection of the Dirofilaria Immitis, or heartworm: a foot long worm which in adulthood, inhabits the hearts and lungs of infected pets. The potentially fatal infection leads to severe lung disease, heart failure, as well as damage to other organs in the body. Though dogs are the primary host for heartworm, it can also affect cats and ferrets, as well as wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions, and on rare occasions, humans. For more information on heartworm disease, check out the American Heartworm Society by clicking here.
Is my dog at risk?
Heartworm affects over 1 million dogs in the United States at a time, and because it is notoriously expensive and difficult to treat, we push for prevention. According to the American Heartworm Society, between 1 and 5 cases of heartworm per clinic were reported in the Traverse City Area in 2013, with some areas of Michigan reaching over 100 cases per clinic. For a heartworm incidence map, click here.
How do we prevent it?
Luckily there is a host of heartworm prevention products that can be given to your pet, either orally or topically in order to prevent this serious disease. Heartgard, a monthly beef chewable tablet, is one of the most common heartworm prevention products that we prescribe on a regular basis. Because heartworm larvae are transmitted by mosquitos, we recommend using Heartgard every month that mosquitoes may be present. And because mosquitos can be present even on a single day above 50 degrees in the dead of winter, we recommend using heartgard all year round. Heartgard also protects your dog against a slew of intestinal parasites, as well as provides you medical reimbursement in case your dog becomes infected with heartworm after 9 months of continuous use.
How does Heartgard work?
When a Heartgard tablet is given, it kills any infectious heartworm larvae that may have been contracted in the past 30 days. Therefore, if you choose to only give heartworm during the warm season, keep in mind that it works backwards. For more information on Heartgard, click here.
Why do we need to test for it every year even if our pets are on prevention all year round?
Because heartworm is easier to treat in its earlier stages, we recommend testing annually.. In the case that your dog may have not obtained the whole dose, either by vomiting it up in the back yard, or by simply missing a month, we want to make sure that we are able to catch it as early as possible. Because heartworm can be detected as early as 5-6.5 months post infection, we recommend yearly testing preferably in the spring. Our heartworm test, which can be run from a simple blood test at the clinic, also looks for 3 tick borne diseases: Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis. This is another a great reason to be tested annually.
What about my cat?
Heartworm in cats is very different from heartworm in dogs. Because cats are atypical hosts for heartworm, larvae don’t typically survive until their adult stage and thus the disease is much rarer. There are available and safe preventatives for cats, but because of the rarity, we don’t typically test annually or recommend prevention 100% of the time. Our Feline Leukemia/FIV test, which we recommend on your cat’s initial veterinary visit, also checks for heartworm.
We’re currently running a promotion on Heartgard; buy 12, get 12 dollars back as a mail in rebate. So stop in, get your pet tested, and pick up some Heartgard today!