Parasites like worms that can be contracted from fleas, mosquitos, or even soil can wreak havoc on our pets' health and potentially lead to death, but can be prevented by simple procedures like feeding monthly chewable, tasty meds; even less than an ounce worth!
Fleas, heartworms, intestinal parasites. What are they and why do we need to prevent our pets from contracting them?
Peak flea season in Oregon starts in spring and lasts through the summer into early fall, but fleas can survive year-round in western Oregon's moderate climate and our heated homes. Since fleas carry tapeworms, year-round prevention of fleas prevents tapeworm infection as well. It is also important to prevent flea accumulation on your pet because the bite of a flea can cause a skin allergic reaction and secondary infection. While infections can be severe and cause hairloss, even a mild flea reaction causes the cat or dog discomfort. If you are not taking measures to prevent fleas, over time a flea infestation (=lots of fleas, larvae, AND eggs) can develop even in a tidy home and infestations are harder to treat. The graph below shows the flea activity for Salem, Oregon by month. Monthly, year-round preventative for all pets in the home eliminates flea problems.
Intestinal Parasites we may diagnose in a dog or cat include: roundworms (common in puppies, kittens and pregnant or nursing dogs), hookworms, whipworms (harder to diagnose, lower incidence in Oregon), and tapeworms (from fleas). These worms are commonly diagnosed by microscopic examination of the feces. Roundworms are named for their shape. Hookworms are named because they hook onto the wall of the intestines and feed off of the blood of their host. Tapeworms come from fleas, and whipworms are found in soil but are uncommon in cats. See the prevalence of roundworms, hookworms and whipworms; Simply follow this link, http://www.petsandparasites.org/parasite-prevalence-maps/ and click on "Intestinal Parasites".
Annual examination of stool sample for parasites is recommended to make sure your pet is free of them. This is especially important for families with young children, as roundworms and hookworms can be contracted by humans, more commonly young children.
Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are roundworms that require a mosquito to mature and spread from animal to animal. While the dog is the preferred host, cats may become infected as well. This video provided by the American Heartworm Society explains the heartworm's life cycle, http://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources/canine.html.
While the incidence of heartworm is more prevalent in California, the south, and southeastern, prevention is still recommended for several reasons: 1)Consequences from heartworms are dire, once contracted, are very difficult to treat and may cause death; 2)It is hard to predict the ability of the heartworm parasite's or the mosquito vector's ability to adapt and more easily spread the infection outside of the higher prevalence areas; 3)You may unexpectedly travel to an area of increased heartworm infection risk; and 4)Presence of a heartworm positive dog from the southeastern US may go undetected and be a source of heartworm infection in Oregon in the warm months.
Testing your dog before beginning heartworm prevention is recommended and then once a year to ensure that the product is effective. Most heartworm preventions also prevent intestinal parasites as well.