cat scratching

Spring has definitely sprung in the San Lorenzo Valley, and if you’re like us, you and your pets can’t wait to get outside more and more. But before you head outside this spring and summer for gardening, trips to the dog park, hiking, and general frolicking, let’s get up to date on parasite prevention.

When the Felton flora and fauna wake up from their winter slumber, you better believe that parasites are awake, too. However, we’ve also noticed that mosquitoes, fleas, and even ticks are even more resilient than ever, and with overall warmer winter temperatures and their ability to overwinter indoors (think: your garage, your shed, your house!), we’re now recommending parasite prevention and control all year round. Here’s more from Felton Veterinary Hospital about why prevention is your best medicine.

Flea and Tick Prevention

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort and serious illness in pets and in people.

In our area, fleas are prevalent due to the semi-rural nature of mountain living – lots of wildlife close by ensures that fleas have plenty of carriers. That, coupled with the number of domestic pets that are outdoors much of the time, leads to flea problems that can get out of control quickly! Pets can be made really uncomfortable by fleas, and fleas contribute to the spread of tapeworms and cat scratch fever (bartonellosis).

Fleas can also cause a severe allergic reaction in some pets, known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). Pets with FAD are really miserable, and even one flea bite can cause pets with this condition to suffer. Hair loss, incessant itching, and raw, painful skin can result.

Ticks are also found in abundance in the San Lorenzo Valley. They are most prevalent in early spring and fall, but are well adapted to live throughout the year. Ticks live in grassy areas or in brush and dark, moist areas where they wait for a host to walk by. They then crawl onto your pet and bite, attaching for up to several days while they feed.

Tick bites can be painful and irritating, and can even become infected. But of more serious concern are the diseases that can be transmitted by a tick bite. These include:

  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Lyme disease
  • Anaplasmosis

These diseases can be serious, complicated, and painful and can affect your pet’s health for months or even years. Many of them also affect humans, so it’s important to test your pet regularly for tick transmitted disease to know if you may also be at risk.

Luckily, flea and tick prevention for your pet is easy, safe, and affordable. We recommend a monthly preventive and offer both topical or chewable alternatives. Talk to us about your pet’s lifestyle at their next preventive care exam, and together we can form a plan of attack.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm infection is a deadly disease for both dogs and cats. It is transmitted by a single mosquito bite, and can take months to show symptoms in your pet. Signs of heartworm disease include lethargy, exercise intolerance, and sudden onset coughing.

When an infected mosquito bites your pet, it transmits the heartworm larvae into your pet’s bloodstream. These microfilaria travel to your pet’s heart and the arteries of the lungs, where they mature into foot long adult heartworms. Heartworms can live for 2-3 years in the cat, and 5-7 years in the dog, and during that time they wreak havoc on your pet’s heart, lungs, and other organs. Left untreated, heartworm disease is fatal in all cases – cats, and dogs.

Heartworm disease has been endemic in the San Lorenzo Valley since the 1940’s, largely due to our climate of lots of winter moisture followed by warm spring and summer temperatures. Mosquitoes are extremely resilient, and they love this climate as much as we all do, and unfortunately we have treated literally hundreds of heartworm cases over the last 10 years.

Heartworm treatment for dogs is long, expensive, and very involved. There is no approved treatment for cats. For these reasons, we recommend heartworm prevention all year round.

Preventives are available in topical (Revolution) or chewable (Heartgard) form, and and are effective and easy to give. Heartworm testing every year is also recommended for each pet, as the heartworm life cycle can take up to 8 months to complete.

Don’t make the mistake of letting your pet’s parasite preventives lapse or fall away. This is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to keep your pet healthy and happy. If you’ve let things slide this winter, give us a call and let us help you get back on track. We’re here to help!