Dr. Julie Damron

3 minutes reading time (566 words)

No Winter Break for Pet Pests

Your Pets
By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record January 10, 2009

I know we think of these insects as only a spring and summer problem; but they do stick around all year long, just in smaller numbers. Unfortunately these pests still pose a significant health risk to both your dog and cat.

Fleas are not only a nuisance, but they can be the source of several diseases. Most of pet allergies are often at least partially flea related. Clients find it embarrassing to learn their pet can be suffering from a problem related to fleas; but fleas are everywhere. This problem is compounded by the fact that fleas can be very difficult to find. One flea bite can make a severely flea allergic pet scratch for weeks. If your pet grooms well, the flea and/or the flea dirt can be gone very quickly, before you are able to identify them. Ingestion of fleas can also cause tapeworms. In addition, fleas can trigger anemia; and less commonly plague, typhus, and Tularemia.

Ticks can spread deadly diseases to both animals and people. Lyme disease is the most well known. Other illnesses include anemia, paralysis, Ehrlichea, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, and others. The problem begins after a tick has attached itself to your pet, and begins feeding. This may take several days to occur, and the blood engorged ticks are easier to identify because they are larger. Some ticks can be smaller than the tip of your pen, and they typically nest in the face and armpit areas. Ticks can be removed using tweezers; and it is important to remove the head. Most preventatives work by killing or repelling the ticks before they are able to feed on your pet.

Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, and it is now a significant problem in our area. When a mosquito bites your pet, it can transmit the larval stage of a heartworm. This parasite matures and migrates to your pet's heart. At this location it can reproduce and also spread to invade the lungs, liver, and other tissues. We are seeing more cases of this deadly illness each year, and now in patients who do not travel outside this area. Unfortunately symptoms of this illness such as coughing and weakness with exercise, do not take place until the very advanced stages of disease. This illness is treated in dogs using Arsenic, and is a very involved, risky, and costly process; and there is not treatment for cats. All that is needed is a blood test to start your dog or cat on preventative.

To make the dosing of the topical or oral preventative easier to remember, give these products on the same day each month. Mark it on your calender or send yourself an automated email reminder. Your veterinarian may have a computerized medical management system in place to help you with this, and is also the best source to customize a preventative plan for your pet. Our clinic uses the Pet Portal computer system, and we recommend Heartguard and Frontline for your dog and Advantage-multi for your cat. Many of the over the counter products are not effective; and some can be toxic, especially for cats.

Giving preventatives consistently helps to keep your dogs and cats healthy and comfortable.

Contact Julie Damron at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Read all her columns at recordnet.com.

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