Do you know what heartworm prevention really is?

Dec 19, 2017 | Care & Wellness, Cats, Dogs, Infectious Diseases, Parasites

By: Dr. Leslie Carr

Every year I get the questions:

  • “Do I need to keep my dog on Heartworm prevention through the winter?”
  • “Do I need to keep my older dog on heartworm prevention?”
  • “Does my cat need to be treated?”

The short answer is yes. And, there are many reasons why. Monthly heartworm prevention does a lot more than stop heartworm disease. It also controls intestinal parasites. Depending which brand you use, that includes roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. Some of the parasites are contagious to humans as well.

There are a large number of internal and external parasites in the environment and a high risk of pet infection. Where do these nasties come from? Heartworm disease is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. It takes around 5-6 months for this parasite to mature into adults that live in the heart and blood. In the Annapolis area, we don’t have a lot of mosquitos in the winter, but we do occasionally get warm enough days for them to come out. Some owners think their pets are not outside very much and at low risk. Mosquitos are very good at getting into your house through doors or windows. Another myth is that thick coated dogs or cats don’t get bitten. There are plenty of areas, face, paws, ears, that the fur is thin enough for a mosquito to bite.

Intestinal parasites come from several possible avenues. A dog or cat may become infected when it inadvertently swallows worm larvae, often by grooming its feet, or from sniffing feces or contaminated soil. The larvae may also burrow into the skin if the pet walks or lies on contaminated ground. Some parasites can be transmitted directly from the mother, either through the placenta or the milk. Tapeworms require an intermediate host, a flea or a rodent to be ingested to transmit the infection. Unfortunately some worm eggs are pretty resistant to environmental changes and can persist for long periods in the soil. There are some precautions that can be taken in small areas to destroy the eggs. Unfortunately they damage or destroy the lawn and landscaping in the immediate area.

BUT, did you know we are not really preventing these infections? In reality, the active ingredient is actually treating current infections on a monthly basis. By treating regularly, we are then controlling infections and the spread of them. It does not prevent these parasites from infiltrating your pet’s body, but regularly using a preventative will quickly treat any resulting infections from these creatures. That is right; your dog could be getting re-infected on a daily basis! The medication can only treat immature parasites. Once they grow to adult status, they must be treated with a different medication. Since most parasites take 8-10 weeks from larva to adult worm, the prevention medicine must be given monthly all year round. So if you miss one or two doses, these infections can progress and cause signs of disease.

So what if you think prevention is too expensive? Here are the recommendations for pets not on year-round parasite protection products:

  • For puppies and kittens, administer anthelmintics starting 2 weeks of age, repeating every 2 weeks until 2 months or age, monthly until 6 months of age, and quarterly thereafter.
  • Treat all adult pets four times a year with a broad-spectrum anthelmintic with efficacy against intestinal parasites.
  • Conduct fecal examinations at least four times a year, depending on pet health and lifestyle factors.
  • Bi-annual testing is encouraged for heartworm and other vector-borne infections in dogs, as well as routine, year-round use of heartworm preventive, monthly intestinal parasite control, and flea and tick control in all pets.

That adds up quickly!

At Arnold Pet Station we can help you control parasites year-round by giving your dog a monthly dose of Interceptor Plus and cat a monthly dose of Revolution. This is the most reliable and cost effective way to ensure the highest level of health for your pet and well-being of your family.  Call us today at 410-544-1130 for more information and best product selection for your pet! 

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