We all appreciate a simple fix. That’s why we love duct tape, sticky notes, and microwave dinners. Convenience is exactly what the doctor ordered for filling a need or fixing a problem—not complex equipment, complicated skills, or lots and lots of time. At Town and Country Animal Hospital, our veterinarians want to ensure you know about a simple fix that stops dangerous heartworm disease and tick-borne illness from harming your beloved pet.
Unlike duct tape, this simple fix does more than mask the problem or provide a temporary solution—this fix is a reliable, tested, long-term solution. We’re talking about pet parasite preventives.
The problem in pets—heartworm disease
Heartworm infection begins when an infected mosquito bites your pet and transmits heartworm larvae (i.e., microfilariae). The microfilariae take five to seven months to migrate through the bloodstream, and they have matured into adult worms by the time they reach the major lung vessels and the right side of the heart. The presence of adult worms in these locations is considered heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease affects dogs and cats, and indoor and outdoor pets. Heartworms cause potentially fatal damage by triggering severe vascular inflammation and permanent circulatory damage. Adult worms in dogs can cause sudden death from fatal blockages. In cats, heartworm disease can show no signs, or may be misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis, because only a few adult worms can cause respiratory irritation.
Heartworm disease is treatable in dogs, but the protocol is dangerous, painful, lengthy, and expensive. No treatment is available for cats with heartworm disease.
The simple fix for pets—heartworm disease prevention
With prevention products, heartworm disease can be stopped in its tracks at the larval stage, saving your pet from suffering. Preventives work by clearing your pet’s system of any circulating microfilariae before they can mature, eliminating the risk of severe lung and heart damage.
Town and Country Animal Hospital provides a wide range of prevention options. One will fit your schedule and preference, and make keeping your pet safe easier than ever. Some important facts:
- Monthly preventives — Topical and oral products protect cats and dogs for 30 days. Most pet owners are familiar with these products, which are great for all cats, growing puppies who are too young for injectable products, and for owners who prefer a monthly dosing schedule.
- Proheart 6 and 12 — These injectable medications for dogs provide an incredible 6 and 12 months of protection, eliminating the risk of accidentally forgetting a dose. Proheart contains tiny microspheres of medication that live in your dog’s fatty tissues and slowly release over time, providing steady, reliable protection.
- Heartworm screening — Annual heartworm testing is still an important part of your pet’s prevention plan. A yearly screening test allows us to ensure products are working effectively, and to detect disease at the earliest opportunity.
The problem in pets—tick-borne diseases
Ticks lie in wait in tall grasses to feed on humans and our pets, sharing diseases through their blood-sucking bite. Ticks require a blood meal at each life stage, and carry a wide range of bacterial pathogens. A tick may have previously dined on a mouse, a rabbit, and a deer before preying on your dog. Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis are the three most common tick-borne diseases that can affect your pet.
- Lyme disease — Although Lyme disease is common in people and dogs, the manifestation of the disease is quite different. Ninety percent of dogs infected with Lyme disease will never show any signs. The other dogs will begin to show signs, such as shifting lameness, fever, lack of appetite, and enlarged lymph nodes, weeks to months after the initial bite. Infected dogs may experience long-term kidney damage because of chronic immune stimulation. Lyme disease typically is treated with a 30-day course of the antibiotic doxycycline. Studies are unclear whether cats develop clinical disease at all.
- Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis — These tick-borne bacterial parasites live in the white blood cells and are somewhat similar in nature. Your pet will show signs that include poor appetite and fever, and may show joint pain, swelling, and stiffness one to three weeks after the tick bites. Severe cases may include anemia or clotting disorders, and kidney damage from protein loss. Treatment for ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis is the same as Lyme disease, but severe cases may require additional care. Both diseases are uncommon in cats.
The simple fix for pets—prevention
A convenient chink in the armor of tick-borne illnesses is that a tick must be attached to an animal for at least 24 hours before they can transmit disease. Flea and tick preventives capitalize on this window of opportunity with a rapid kill speed—usually less than 12 hours. Although the tick must bite your pet to die, your pet is never exposed to dangerous pathogens, and is therefore effectively protected from tick-borne disease.
Flea and tick preventives are available as 30- and 90-day dosing products, depending on the species and your administration preference. Cats should be given only products labeled specifically for cats, as some canine preventives contain ingredients toxic to cats.
A simple fix—a veterinary-recommended parasite preventive—can literally neutralize the threat of heartworm and tick-borne diseases. A safe, effective product that suits your preference for administration (i.e., an oral, topical, or injectable product) and schedule (e.g., monthly, six-monthly, or annually) is all you need to life-hack vector-borne disease and keep your pets safe.
Would you like recommendations for your pet’s parasite prevention plan, or do you need to schedule a heartworm test? Simply contact Town and Country Animal Hospital.