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Only a healthy pet is a happy companion. Assuring your pet's daily well-being requires regular care and close attention to any hint of ill health. The American Veterinary Medical Association therefore suggests that you consult your veterinarian if your pet shows any of the following signs:
* Abnormal discharges from the nose, eyes, or other body openings.
* Abnormal behavior, sudden viciousness, or lethargy.
* Abnormal lumps, limping, or difficulty getting up or lying down.
* Loss of appetite, marked weight losses or gains, or excessive water consumption.
* Difficult, abnormal, or uncontrolled waste elimination.
* Excessive head shaking, scratching, and licking or biting any part of the body.
* Dandruff, loss of hair, open sores, or a ragged or dull coat.
* Foul breath or excessive tarter deposits on teeth.
Heartworm has been diagnosed in dogs in all parts of the world and is actually very common. This may be due to the fact that heartworm has a virtual 100% prevalence rate in unprotected dogs living in highly endemic areas. Heartworm, also known as Dirofilaria immitis, is transmitted by mosquitoes. The mosquito injects a microscopic larvae which grows into an adult worm six to eighteen inches long inside the heart of the affected dog.
The worms can cause mild symptoms, such as coughing, but with time, more severe symptoms such as congestive heart failure, weight loss, fluid build up in the abdomen, fainting spells, anemia, collapse, and death usually occur.
Luckily we have several excellent medications which can prevent heartworm if given as directed. There are oral medications which need to be given monthly, and which also help protect against some intestinal parasites. There is one topical medication which is also applied monthly. An injectable medication, ProHeart, which is administered every six months, is back on the market after being withdrawn for several years.
Even if a dog has been given preventatives, it is still important to have annual checkups for heartworms by doing a blood test. Many people are not totally compliant about giving the preventive medication on time, and no medication works perfectly. If a dog has heartworms and it is given a dose of preventative, there can be a reaction that is detrimental to the dog, even deadly.
Heartworms were once thought to be rare in cats. Now we know the incidence is anywhere from 10% to 50% of the canine rate. Heartworm disease in cats is different than in dogs. Cats usually test negative on the routine blood test done in the hospital, the worms are smaller and usually do not produce microfilaria which are like baby heartworms that circulate in the bloodstream. Veterinarians have to do different tests, sometimes more than one, to diagnose heartworms in cats.
The symptoms in cats are different also. Cats usually have asthma signs or cough, even vomit. Cats can die acutely. The treatment for adult heartworms in dogs is expensive and potentially harmful to the dog. This is why it is much better to just prevent them in the first place. There is not a treatment for adult heartworms in cats. Many veterinarians are now recommending monthly heartworms preventative for cats in addition to dogs, since heartworm can be such a serious problem.
A common parasite, fleas are found in almost every area of the world and can be found on dogs, cats, and many other mammals. They survive year to year even in cold climates because they live on pets, in buildings, and on wild animals.
There are four stages to the flea life cycle. Eggs are laid by an adult female flea which is on a host. The eggs roll off into the environment and after a few days they mature into larvae. Larvae survive by eating eat flea feces, flea egg shells, organic debris, and other flea larvae. They can crawl and move as far as six inches per day. After a few days, and once conditions are conducive, larvae mature into pupae. Pupae have very thick shells and are very resistant to environmental conditions. After a few days, and once the pupae detect a host is present, they mature into adult fleas that hop on another host.
There are many types of flea treatments. Unfortunately, there is no one drug or chemical that can kill all four stages of the flea. There are several types of good products to kill adult fleas: Activyl, Frontline, Advantage, Comfortis, Capstar, Revolution, and others. Older products of various formulations of synthetic pyrethrins are also available, some of which are highly toxic to cats. Lufenuron and methoprene are chemicals that work on immature stages of the flea, although there is no chemical that will kill the pupal stage.
Fleas are the number one allergen of dogs and cats and can cause severe skin disease and itching. Another reason fleas should be treated is due to the fact that they can carry and spread several serious diseases, such as tapeworms, Cat scratch disease (Bartonella), murine typhus, and the bubonic plague.
Your veterinarian can help you with a flea control program depending on what kind of pets you have and the level of flea infestation. Control may involve treating the environment as well as the pets. Contact your veterinarian today for more information about the treatment options available for your pet!