Finally, spring has arrived in Southwestern Ontario, which unfortunately also means the start of flea, tick and heartworm season.
The robins are back, the geese are nesting and you and your pet are spending every possible moment outside soaking up the nice weather before it gets too hot and we all go searching for climate controlled AC.
We all love this time, and I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there is a threat you need to be aware of. Whether it’s you and your dog hitting the park trails or you’re lounging in the grass with your cat, fleas, ticks and dreaded heartworm are real dangers.
Even if your cat stays indoors it is still at risk. An infected mosquito manages to slip inside your home, or a tick or flea hitches a ride in from the outside world on you or a visitor.
We all cringe and get anxious with the mention of these parasites, but if you take a few precautionary measures you can go back to enjoying spring, summer and fall and forget it was ever called flea and heartworm season.
The purpose of this post isn’t to terrify you or make you want to keep yourself and your pet locked away inside all summer. I’m going to forego all the scary details. I won’t be covering what heartworm or Lyme Disease can do to your pet’s health but I hope you take my word for it, it’s not something you want to see a loved one go through. With that out of the way, I am going to very briefly and generally discuss each one of these parasites.
Fleas, ticks, and heartworms are all mostly unrelated health concerns. The reason we address all of them around this time of the year is that once the weather is consistently above freezing flea populations begin to grow, ticks stir out of their winter dormancy, and mosquitoes, which are the carrier of heartworm, return.
While fleas may be just a disgusting nuisance for us, they pose a real health concern for cats and dogs. Not all animals are itchy, but for those that are it is quite uncontrollable. Constant scratching will cause scabs, loss of fur and red skin. In severe cases an animal may cause what is known as a “hot-spot.”
Small animals, particularly puppies and kittens can actually lose so much blood to flea bites that they become anemic and die.
Aggravating the situation, even more, a flea infestation is incredibly hard to remedy, and in severe circumstances will require a professional fumigation. The best course of action is to stop the flea infestation before it even starts and we will cover how to go about doing this below.
In recent years tick populations have shot up in London and the surrounding area. The reported tick population doubled in 2017 from 2015.
Most ticks are not the variety that carries Lyme Disease, however, anytime a parasite’s population increases so do the health risks associated with it. Even if these ticks aren’t carrying deadly disease, it’s still pretty unnerving finding one on your dog, cat or even yourself.
I decided to save the scariest for last, heartworm or the silent killer as it is sometimes referred to. While fleas and ticks are pretty quick to be identified, a dog or cat infected with heartworm may not show any signs for many months.
By the time heartworm is detected a lot of damage has been done, the animals life has been shortened and the cost of treatment will be exponentially higher than the cost of prevention. Heartworm is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It only takes one infected bite and despite what you may have heard, that heartworm isn’t a threat in this area, it has been reported in Southwestern Ontario in recent years.
Preventing Parasites in Your Pet
In this post, I’m going to provide you with some actions you can take at home to prevent parasite infestations, but before that, I need to stress the importance of your pet having an annual checkup and vaccination with your vet.
I don’t want someone reading this to think they can follow these steps and skip seeing their vet or having their pet vaccinated because that is just not the case. I’m a big believer in prevention, especially when it comes to parasites. Your vet will prescribe medications for your dog or cat that will help prevent parasites getting on them in the first place.
The only reliable method of prevention is a vaccination. I know in recent years vaccinations for people and pets have come under scrutiny but please, do not risk your pet’s health because of something you read online.
With that out of the way here are 7 things you can do at home to help prevent parasitic infestation.
- Have your pet vaccinated by their vet! I know I just stated that but I want to repeat for those readers that skip right to the list. Vet prescribed medications will prevent parasites from getting onto your pet in the first place.
- Keep cats inside. I always recommend people keep their cats inside. It is an easy way to prevent parasite attacks but it also keeps the surrounding birds and wildlife a little safer. Once a cat gets a taste of the outdoors they can become completely obsessed with escaping the house.
- Keep your lawn mowed. Wild animals, including mice, are often crawling with fleas and ticks so if your yard is an ideal home for them, it increases the chances of parasites being in close contact with your pet.
- Remove standing water, which is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Keep your pet well groomed. This might mean keeping your dog’s coat trimmed or making time to regularly brush your cat. A regular visual inspection of your pet not only helps to catch signs of fleas and ticks but it also just makes your pet feel a little more loved and it’s good for you too.
- Keep pets out of long grass, as this is the habitat for ticks. Ticks like moisture. Long grass near rivers, creeks and standing water are where they’re most active. They hunt by climbing to the end of grass blades and waiting to latch onto an animal as it passes by.
- TAKE YOUR PET TO THEIR VET. Third time’s a charm, right? It really is that important.
In this post, we briefly covered the dangers of fleas, ticks, and heartworms. We discussed 7 steps you could take at home to reduce the risk of these parasites coming in contact with your pet and I emphasized how important it is to have your pet vaccinated annually.
Dahl Mobile Veterinary Service offers convenience by having your dog or cat checked and vaccinated right in your own home. There are many advantages to using a mobile vet. To learn more give us a call or read our blog post What Are The Benefits of a Mobile Vet.