HEARTWORM AND PARASITES IN DOGS


Heartworm:

At  All Creatures Animal Clinic, we carry and recommend Sentinel for dogs.  This is a flavored chew tab that is given once every 30 days.  It protects against heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and prevents flea reproduction.  It must be given with a full meal to activate the flea medication that it contains.  We chose this product because we feel it offers your dog the widest range of effective parasite protection at the most affordable price point. Proheart injections can also be given once every 6 months to protect against heartworm instead of a monthly preventative.

Consistently giving heartworm prevention is the best way to protect our dogs from heartworm disease.

Life Cycle of the Heartworm in Dogs

Life Cycle of the Heartworm in Dogs


When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it ingests the young worms (microfilariae) from the blood stream. Inside the mosquito, the young worms develop into Heartworm larvae. When the mosquito then bites another dog, it deposits the larvae into the dog's skin where they migrate into the bloodstream. The larvae move through the bloodstream to the heart and the arteries of the lungs where they live and grow to be 10-12 inches!

Heartworms may take years for serious symptoms to develop, and tests cannot accurately detect heartworms until the worms are at least six months old. This is why it is crucial to give your dog heartworm preventative year round and have an annual heartworm test. Symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, reluctance to exercise, labored breathing, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Heartworms destroy the tissue of the lungs and heart, causing lung disease and heart failure.

Treatment of heartworm disease is very expensive and somewhat dangerous. The dog is given a powerful drug (Immiticide) to kill off the worms, and usually more than one treatment is necessary to ensure that all of the worms were killed. Treatment also includes hospitalization, bloodwork, radiographs, physical examinations, as well as follow up examinations and testing. There are also risks associated with the drug itself, and risks of complications from the killed adult worms still embedded in the body. However, as rough and intense as the treatment is, when left untreated, heartworm disease is fatal.

Heartworm preventives work retroactively, meaning the dose you give today kills any young heartworms that your dog acquired in the previous 30 days. If you miss a dose and the heartworms mature, the preventives will not kill them!

 

External Parasites

MITES

There are several types of mites that can infect dogs. Ear mites live on the skin's surface, especially on the lining of the ear canal, and are highly contagious. Demodex mites live in hair follicles and in skin glands, and often cause bacterial skin infections. Cheyletiella and Sarcoptes mites live on and in the skin. The presence of mites is often characterized by persistent scratching, head shaking, skin lesions and patchy hair loss. If you suspect mites in your dog, you should limit their exposure to other pets and bring them in promptly for diagnosis and treatment.

TICKS

Ticks feed by attaching to a host with their mouth-parts and taking a large blood meal. They do not move around on your pet, in fact, they spend most of their lives OFF the host and in the environment. They wait around in bushes, grass and brush for an animal or person to brush against them so they can hitch a ride and latch on. Ticks themselves usually only cause mild irritation, but occasionally they can consume enough blood to cause anemia (low red blood cell count).  They are also responsible for the transmission of serious illnesses such as Lyme disease.

Use of tick repellent can greatly reduce a tick's ability to latch on and feed off your dog. If a tick is spotted, it should only be removed at home if you have experience in properly detaching one from the skin. If any parts of the head and mouth of the tick remain in the skin, it can cause serious irritation.

We recommend using a tick preventive year-round.  Thought your pet’s risk of getting ticks is much higher in the summer months, ticks can remain active throughout the year.  At All Creatures Animal Clinic we carry Vectra for tick prevention.  Vectra is a topical product applied once every month that protects against fleas or all stages, ticks, mosquitoes and biting flies.  Vectra can be used safely in combination with Sentinel.

FLEAS

Fleas are blood-sucking parasites that live on the skin’s surface and are the most common external parasite seen in pets. There are four stages of the flea life cycle; eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Adult fleas, what you see hopping around your pet, only make up 5% of the population present! After ingesting blood from an animal, fleas lay eggs on the pet, inside the house in cracks and crevices or outside on damp ground. Larvae live in your pets' environment and feed on organic material. Under warm, moist conditions the entire life cycle may occur in as little as 16 days, but they can lay dormant for up to a year!

The presence of fleas is characterized by scratching, flea dirt on the skin and fur (looks like black pepper), flea bites on pets and people, and often the sight of adult fleas themselves. Flea infestations are best controlled by simultaneously treating fleas on the animal, in the house and in the pet’s outdoor environment.

Frequent vacuuming can help remove flea eggs and larvae from carpets and furniture. The pet’s bedding should be washed and thoroughly dried. Insecticides selected for use in the home should combine instant and residual flea-killing power. Insecticide sprays are better than foggers and can be used through the entire house, especially underneath furniture, behind baseboards and in closets.

Flea control outside the home should be aimed at areas where your pet spends most of its time.  Areas such as underneath porches, in doghouses and in the yard near the home should be sprayed or dusted with insecticides designed to kill fleas. An oral or topical medication to begin instantly killing fleas will need to be administered.  It is impossible to control fleas effectively without putting all dogs, cats and rabbits in your house on a high quality flea preventive.  Year round preventive for all pets is the best way to avoid a costly and time consuming infestation.


Intestinal Parasites

There are many types of intestinal parasites including Hookworms, Roundworms, Whipworms,  Tapeworms, Giardia and Coccidia. 

Infection can occur through the ingestion of feces, dead animals and exposure to contaminated environments. Many of these parasites are zoonotic, which means they can  be transmitted from your pet to humans! Symptoms in dogs can include diarrhea, weight  loss and the visible presence of adult worms in the feces.

Some Heartworm preventives include a de-wormer (such as Sentinel) but there is no preventive  available to protect your dog against all of the intestinal parasites. The best way to keep your pet and your family safe is to have a fecal test for your pet done every 6-12 months. A fecal test is a microscopic examination of your pet's stool to check for the presence of intestinal parasites and eggs. Because of the life cycle of parasites, evidence may not appear in every stool sample. For this reason, we want to see 2 negative fecal tests performed a few weeks apart whenever you bring a new pet into your home.  

Remember, if one pet tests positive for intestinal worms, more than likely all the pets in the household need to be treated as well. Keeping the environment clean and washing your hands after handling will help minimize contamination. And when you are out for a walk, make sure to clean up after your dog!