Fleas, Ticks, Parasite Protection
FLEA, TICK, PARASITE PROTECTION AND PREVENTION
There are many products that are advertised as being able to prevent fleas and ticks from attaching themselves to your pets. Not all of these products are safe or effective. The best way to prevent fleas and ticks from getting on your pets is to use a product purchased from your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can advise you as to the best product to use for your dog or cat. The product you use is very important because there are some dog breeds (Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds) that are extremely sensitive to certain flea and Heartworm products. Cats too can die from the wrong product being used on them.
Our hospital advises using flea and tick preventative medications on your puppies, dogs and cats (if they spend a lot of time outdoors). Please call our office for our advice on flea products that are safe to use on your pet (especially cats) (858-484-1260).
Some of the anti-flea products also can be used to prevent Heartworm disease in puppies and adult dogs and even in cats.
Fleas all year: In San Diego it may get cold in the winter (for us) but it does not snow at sea level. Fleas are not killed here by cold snowy weather. They hang out over the winter and as soon as it is warm enough they jump right up and clamber onto your pets. Some of you may have experienced the problem of your dog suddenly getting fleas on him/her in the middle of December as soon as we have our usual Santa Ana warm weather. Believe me those pesky fleas are just waiting for their chance to jump on your dog or cat or you.
That is why we recommend that you use flea preventative medications all year long.
Please do not purchase a flea or tick product over the counter or online, as they can be toxic to your dog or cat. Instead call our office for our recommendation for your dog or cat (858-484-1260).
Tick season: Ticks do appear at certain times of the year. The time is usually in the spring when as the weather is warming up and new plant growth is occurring. Depending on the weather and other factors ticks can be around all summer and even into the fall. The ticks climb up to the top of a plant and when a warm blooded animal (including humans) walks by they jump onto that animal. They need to drink your blood or your pet’s blood in order to metamorphose into the next stage in their life cycle (e.g. from nymph to adult) or to get food for laying eggs. They attach to you or your pet by their long noses. You might see a tick on your dog that is “engorged”. It is full of your pet’s blood. It is extremely important that you do not pull the tick off with your fingers or squish it in between your fingers. Ticks carry diseases that human beings and animals can get. These are called Tick-borne diseases. What part of the country you live in determines the type of tick-borne diseases that are present in your area. These diseases affect your dog and cat as well. If you see a tick on your pet please call our office. We have a device to get the tick off safely that we can sell to you or use on your pet when you bring him/her in. DO NOT EVER TRY TO BURN A TICK OFF YOUR PET. YOUR PET CAN SUFFER THIRD DEGREE BURNS AND DIE from such actions. You can get hurt as well.
Please call our office if you see a tick on your pet. We can help you safely remove the tick either by our advice over the phone or by scheduling an appointment for your pet (858-484-1260).
In San Diego we need to protect our beloved pets from various external (on the coat and skin) and internal (GI tract, heart) parasites.
Puppies: Puppies can come to your household carrying the following gastrointestinal parasites: roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. The first three can be zoonotic to you and your family members, especially children. Puppies acquire these parasites in their “guts” from their dam (mother dog) while they are in-utero. They can also pick them up from a contaminated environment such as unclean runs, yards or inside the houses where they are raised. They can also get them from adults dogs that are around the puppies when the puppies are young.
It is very important to get rid of such parasites as soon as possible. Some breeders are very responsible in that they obtain safe worming medication from their veterinarian and worm the puppies at 3, 4, 5 and even six weeks of age. If you get your puppy from a breeder be sure to get written proof that your new puppy has had proper GI tract parasite worming medication. If your puppy has not had any de-worming medication please do not purchase over the counter worming medication. Such medications can be very harmful to your puppy and could cause your puppy to become very ill or even die.
The best course of action to take is to bring your puppy in for an examination with a fresh stool sample in a baggy. We do not need a big sample, just one the size of a tootsie roll or milk dud. It should be as fresh as possible. Of course puppies are always eating and always have to “go potty’ so getting a fresh stool sample is usually not too hard. If your puppy’s stool is soft or runny try to bring in as much as you can. (Please call our office for an appointment at 858-484-1260.)
Once we determine what type of intestinal parasite your puppy has we will either administer safe effective medicine in the office or we will send you home with the appropriate medication with directions about how to safely administer it to your puppy.
HEARTWORM is a serious parasite that affects mainly dogs (but sometimes cats as well). The best way to combat Heartworm disease in dogs is to PREVENT it in the first place. Heartworm disease is passed from one dog to another or from one coyote to your dog by two species of mosquitoes. We have both species in San Diego County.
Preventative Heartworm medication can be started in your puppy without a blood test before he/she is 6 months old. After your puppy is 6 months old he/she will need to have a blood test to make sure he/she does not have Heartworm disease already. If your puppy has it then he/she could die if put on any oral or topical Heartworm preventative medication. Heartworm medication can be either oral or topical. The medication is given once a month for the life of your dog.
Dog beach or dog park: It would be a lot safer for your puppy to not visit such places until he/she has all his/her vaccines including the rabies vaccine at 4 months of age. If you do take your puppy or your adult dog to a dog park or dog beach be sure to bring YOUR OWN WATER for your pet. Do not let you pet drink out of the “communal” water dish. There are two very bad parasites that your pet can get from drinking such water at the Dog Park or beach. These two parasite will cause very bad diarrhea, are difficult and expensive to diagnose and difficult and expensive to treat. Just a word to the wise if you will. If you see diarrhea develop after your pet has visited the park or beach call us to set up an examination and be sure to bring a fresh stool sample with you. The sooner we treat such intestinal parasites the better and faster your dog will recover.
TAPEWORMS are worms that live inside of fleas. When a dog or cat swallow a flea the flea is digested and the tapeworm comes out. It then starts living in your pet’s intestines. You may see small egg packets come out of the anus of your pet. They look like cream-colored flat moving rice. These are the tip of the iceberg for tapeworms. The egg packet is not the whole worm. The worm is a long flat, segmented worm living in the intestines. The egg packets make their way out of the pet so that they can infest a flea and start the cycle all over again. Please do not purchase over the counter tapeworm medication for your pet. Many of these medications can be extremely toxic to dogs and especially bad for cats. Please call our office to report that you have seen tapeworms in your pet. We have safe medication that we can administer for you or have you administer at home. If we have not seen ever seen your pet we will require you to bring your pet in for a visit. (Sorry but it is illegal to give any medication to a pet we have not seen.)
Kittens can get the same type of intestinal parasites as puppies get. The best way to help your kitten is to bring he/she in for an examination and bring a fresh stool sample with you. It is OK if the stool sample has cat litter on it. In addition to the intestinal parasites mentioned above some kittens can get another intestinal parasite called Coccidia. It is a protozoon type parasite versus a worm type parasite. This parasite is often seen in households where there are a lot of kittens from different backgrounds (foster care) or in kittens from pet stores (because there are many kittens there from different backgrounds). But any kitten can have this parasite. It is easily diagnosed with a stool sample and the treatment is safe and effective. Again please do not give any kitten or cat any over the counter de-worming medication. They can be extremely toxic to cats, young or adult. Puppies can also get Coccidia.
Toxoplasmosis: This is a protozoon parasite mainly found in cats. If your cat has been an indoor cat all it’s life it is less likely to have Toxoplasmosis but it can still have it. Outdoor cats are more likely to acquire this parasite. It usually does not have any symptoms in the cat although they can have diarrhea. It is hard to diagnose. Most cats however do not need treatment. But the cats can shed the parasite in their feces. The feces if left sitting around for over 24 hours it can become infective to people. This is extremely important to pregnant women or to those women who are going to become pregnant. You should not be the one cleaning the litter box (even using gloves and a mask) if you are pregnant. This parasite threatens the life of your unborn child by causing severe birth defects in the first trimester. Have your life partner clean the litter box twice daily and change out all the litter once a week for the duration of your pregnancy and while you are nursing. We have a printed handout at our office, which explains this disease in more detail. If you drop by we will be glad to give you one.
Heartworm in cats: In San Diego we have a growing number of dogs that are being diagnosed with Heartworm disease. We have living here the mosquito that carries the parasite from one dog to another (which is how it is spread). Rarely a cat, living in San Diego, will get Heartworm disease. Unfortunately in the cat the disease is hard to diagnose. Sometimes the cats die for no apparent reason. If their death is investigated Heartworms are often found to be the cause. The rate of infestation of Heartworms in cats in not very high in San Diego however if you have an outdoor cat you might consider putting your cat on Heartworm preventative. Mosquitoes on their nose or ears can bite cats where there is not much hair. Indoor cats may have a decreased risk for acquiring Heartworm disease however those pesky bugs can find their way into our houses. Human beings do not get Heartworm disease. We need to test your cats for heartworm disease before putting them on the preventative medication. The test is a blood test we send to our outside laboratory, Idexx.
Giardia: This parasite is a protozoa type parasite. It is found in the intestines of both cats and dogs. It can be zoonotic to humans. It infests your pet when he/she drinks water from sprinkles, water in the street or water at the dog parks or beaches. It is diagnosed by a fresh stool sample being submitted to our outside laboratory service. If diagnosed in your pet it can be treated safely although it can persist in the intestines for a long time despite therapy.
Please call our office (858-484-1260) for an appointment for your pet to be examined, have their stool checked for parasites, get your puppies and adult dogs on Heartworm preventative and if necessary get them treated for any parasites they may have. If you have a new kitten or have an adult cat please call our office for an appointment and bring a fresh stool sample with you for your visit.