Fleas & Parasites


Flea Infestations are the most common parasite problem of dogs and cats in our area. It is estimated that American pet owners spend over $500 million dollars each year on flea and tick products, most of which do not work!

Flea Facts:

  • Flea eggs are white and about the size of a grain of sand. The eggs are laid while the flea is on the pet and easily roll off the fur into the environment. Eggs usually hatch in 1-10 days, depending on the temperature and humidity.
  • Once the eggs hatch, the larvae move deeper into the carpet to get away from light and search for food, eventually forming a cocoon and emerging in as little as 12 days or as many as 140 days. Adult fleas are attracted to house pets by the warmth of the pet's body, movement, changes in light intensity, and exhaled carbon dioxide.
  • Fleas have tremendously powerful back legs, which they use for jumping on the pet. It is estimated that if we have the power in our legs as has the flea, we could jump over the Empire State Building. It is reported that fleas can jump as high as 13 feet!
  • The adult flea species that attacks dogs and cats SPENDS ITS ENTIRE ADULT LIFE ON THE PET. Once the adult flea begins to feed on the pet, it must have almost CONSTANT ACCESS to the blood of the pet for it to survive. Adult fleas cannot live off the pet more than 3-4 days without a blood meal.
  • Female fleas can produce over 2000 eggs during their life. This is equivalent to producing their body weight in eggs every day of their life. Even with only a fraction of these eggs developing into adults, this high rate of reproduction ensures that there will ALWAYS be fleas!
  • It is common for people to be attacked by fleas after returning from vacation or being away from home for several days. This is often due to the increased temperature that occurs when the air conditioning is turned back on providing a better optimum temperature and humidity (in our area) for fleas to mature.
  • Fleas consume 15 times their body weight with every blood meal. An infestation of 220 female fleas could consume 10% of a 1 pound kitten's blood volume in one day. The majority of blood consumed is passed out as partially digested feces ("Flea Dirt") that serves as essential food for flea larvae in the carpets and other areas.

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition of worms residing in the heart and major blood vessels of dogs, cats, and other species of mammals, including coyotes, wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions, and humans. Heartworm disease is present on every continent except Antarctica.

Heartworm Facts:

  • Heartworms are found THROUGHOUT the United States and Canada. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. After ingesting blood from an infected animal, the MICROFILARIA (immature heartworms) are transmitted to your dog or cat when it is bitten by the mosquito.
  • Heartworms occur in ALL breeds of dogs: both large and small, short-haired and long-haired, inside-dogs and outside-dogs. Heartworms are also now known to infect cats.
  • It takes 3 to 6 months for adult Heartworms to develop in an animal after it is bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • Adult heartworms live in the right side of the heart. They are 7-12 inches long. Several to a large number of worms may be present! Heartworms impair blood circulation, resulting in damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Serious damage may occur, even before outward clinical signs are detected by the owner.
  • Advanced signs include difficult breathing, coughing, tiring easily, listlessness, loss of weight, and fainting.
  • HEARTWORMS CAN BE PREVENTED!!!! We strongly recommend a once monthly heartworm preventive. It should be given ALL YEAR LONG to avoid lapses in complete coverage.
  • Routine testing by a special blood test detects heartworm antigens (proteins) in the blood. Testing for Heartworms once each year is suggested for ALL pets! The earlier the detection, the more successful treatment can be administered, and the less chance of serious side effects of the disease.
  • Treatment IS highly SUCCESSFUL when the disease is detected early. The adult worms are killed with an injectable drug given in a series. A few days later, the worms begin to die, and are carried by way of the bloodstream to the lungs where they lodge in small blood vessels. They slowly decompose and are absorbed by the body over a period of several months. Other injections may be required to kill the microfilaria (immature heartworms) at a later time.

Ticks are another blood-sucking parasite common in our area. Unfortunately they are major disease carriers so protecting yourself and your buddy should be top priorities!

Tick Facts:

  • Ticks have 8 legs and are considered an arachnid, meaning they are more closely related to spider and scorpions than other insects.
  • Ticks find their host by climbing tall grasses or weeds and attaching as the host passes.
  • They can transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme Disease.
  • Pets may contract more than one infection from on tick bite.
  • Dog ticks are the most common disease vector among dogs in the US.
  • Illnesses transmitted by ticks can case fever, anemia, paralysis, lameness, and other symptoms.
  • If you do find a tick on your buddy, grasp the tick as near to the skin as possible with tweezers and pull gently. Call to let us know and a testing protocol will be recommended, to ensure any potential illness is treated early.
  • The best option for your pets, particularly if they are often exposed to tall grasses, brush, and woods, is to prevent tick bites in the first place by keeping them on monthly preventative.

Other Parasites

Though the list of pet parasites is long, these five are commonly seen and easily prevented with monthly broad-spectrum parasite preventatives such as Heartgard and Revolution:

  • Roundworms are one of the most commonly seen parasites. Studies show that more than 30% of puppies and 25% of kittens in the US are infected.
  • Roundworms often cause your pet to have a pot-bellied appearence and diarrhea, and sometimes cause vomiting, weakness, and weight loss. They are white or light brown in color and several inches long, resembling spaghetti, and may occasionally be seen in an infected animal's stool or vomit.
  • Roundworm infections can be transferred from infected pets to humans. It contaminates the environment through an animals feces and then may be accidentally ingested. Children are particularly vulnerable as they are more likely to be playing in contaminated soil. Roundworm infection in humans may cause fever, fatigue, coughing, wheezing, abdominal pain, eye inflammation, damage to the retina, and even blindness.
  • Dogs and cats become infected with hookworms ingesting the larvae from the environment, through skin penetration, and/or ingestion of infected prey.
  • Hookworm infections may cause anemia, anorexia, weight loss, weakness, and dark, tarry diarrhea.
  • Hookworms are shed in an infected animal's stool and can be easily passed to humans through bare skin coming in contact with contaminated soil. In humans they cause extreme itchiness and lesions on the skin in addition to intestinal symptoms.
  • Dogs acquire whipworm infections by ingesting eggs containing infective larvae from the environment.
  • Severe infections result in bloody diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration, anemia, and in the most extreme cases, death.
  • Whipworms are found in as many as 14.3% of shelter dogs sampled in the U.S. and 10% of dogs presented to veterinary teaching hospitals.
  • Whipworm transmission to humans from pets is rare, but proper hygiene is still recommended if your pet is infected.
  • Dogs and cats aquire tapeworms by swallowing an infected flea, usually while grooming.
  • Tapeworms are made up of many segments that shed as they mature. Tapeworm segments can often be observed in an infected pet's stool. They are approximately the size and shape of grains of rice.
  • In severe cases, tapeworm can cause weight loss, but they often cause no symptoms.
  • The risk of human infection is very low, he or she would have to swallow an infected flea, but proper hygiene around an infected pet is still recommended.
  • Ear mites are extremely common, particularly in outdoor cats and kittens.
  • Symptoms often include head shaking, scratching of the ears, ear canal inflammation, and dark, dirty looking exudate in the ears.
  • Ear mites can VERY rarely be passed to humans, but are easily passed among animals in close contact.

Prevention

So what can you do to prevent these creepy crawlies from wreaking havoc on your pet and home? These are the products we recommend and trust for prevention and control of these pests:

For Dogs

We strongly recommend Bravecto, a chewable tablet given every three months, to prevent fleas and ticks. For those seeking heartworm and intestinal parasite protrection, we recommend Heartgard Plus. We believe these to be the safest and most effective products in the battle against parasites on your pup.

For Cats

We recommend Revolution, a once monthly topical, for prevention of fleas and heartworm as well as to treat and control roundworm, hookworm, and ear mites.

For more information on your pet and the risks parasites pose, please visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council.