Heartworms, roundworms, and fleas! Oh my! by Dr Jamie Laity

Monthly preventative parasite products can be a source of much confusion for pet owners. What does my pet need? How often should I give it? Which products work best? These are a few of the many questions we hear on a daily basis.

Here’s the scoop:
In the south, parasites (both inside and outside the body) run rampant for dogs and cats. Heartworms are the focus of many of the monthly preventatives because these parasites can cause significant damage, but are very preventable! Heartworms are transmitted through mosquitos, and because we live in the south, heartworms are a real problem for our pets.

Both dogs AND cats can get heartworms, even the pets that stay indoors all the time. Heartworm preventatives should be given EVERY 30 days for maximum protection. If you forget a dose, the best thing to do is bring your pet in for a heartworm test.

Intestinal parasites are very common in our pets. Dogs and cats can become infected with intestinal worms through their everyday environment. Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms are among the most common intestinal parasites we see. These worms can cause various problems including diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia. Like heartworms, intestinal parasites are preventable. We recommend that each pet has a fecal once a year to check for internal parasites.

What about those nasty fleas and ticks? External parasites are not only ugly to look at, but can also transmit dangerous diseases to your pets. Fleas can result in tapeworm infections and ticks can harbor a whole host of organisms that cause serious illnesses in pets. The tricky part with flea infestations is that only 5% of the fleas are actually on your pet. The remaining 95% of the population is buried in deep carpet, couches, and rugs. If you are noticing fleas on your pet, monthly preventatives will help, but they won’t eliminate the problem. Vacuuming daily will help remove eggs and larvae from the environment. With severe infestations, professional exterminators may be necessary.

So what products should I use?
There are many different products on the market that do a great job preventing these harmful parasites. At Animal Medical Hospital, we recommend Sentinel combined with Vectra 3D each month for dogs. Sentinel is an oral tablet that prevents heartworms and intestinal parasites and acts like a “flea birth control.” It does not kill adult fleas, but makes fleas sterile, which helps with population control. Vectra 3D is a topical liquid that kills adult fleas, kills and repels mosquitos and ticks. Vectra 3D also has the advantage of being waterproof. Both of these products in combination will protect your dog for 30 days. For cats, we recommend Revolution, which is a topical product that prevents heartworms, fleas, intestinal parasites and ear mites for 30 days.

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