Here in Northport, we enjoy temperatures that rarely drop below freezing. But in exchange, we have to deal with parasites that can live and spread disease all year long. Since fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes flourish in our warm weather, year-round protection is critical to keeping pets healthy and parasite-free.
Why is it important to prevent these pesky bugs from making a meal out of your pet? Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks can spread dangerous—potentially deadly—diseases that are relatively inexpensive to prevent but can be costly to treat.
Mosquitoes carry heartworm disease, and just one bite can infect your dog or cat and lead to lifelong problems and even death. Spaghetti-like worms that can grow up to a foot in length at maturity, heartworms wreak havoc in the lungs, heart, and surrounding blood vessels. Dogs are a natural host for these invasive parasites. Once a dog is infected and the worms begin to mature, she can experience:
● A mild cough
● Exercise intolerance
● Difficulty breathing
● Decreased appetite
● Weight loss
● Fluid accumulation in the abdomen due to heart failure
Cats are not the preferred host for heartworms, but they’ll still show signs of disease that include:
● Difficulty breathing
● Increased heart rate
● Sudden collapse or death
In Tuscaloosa County in Alabama, 1 in 31 dogs and 1 in 37 cats tests positive for heartworm disease. Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for heartworm in cats. For dogs, the treatment is expensive and can cause long-lasting, life-threatening side effects.
Prevention is key to protecting your pet from this deadly disease. And, in addition to preventing heartworm disease, most heartworm preventive medications also protect pets from intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, or hookworms. Check with us to see which product is best for your pet.
More than just a nuisance, fleas are carriers of the plague, typhus, and tularemia. They are extremely hardy and can lie dormant for months as pupae in your carpet, impervious to insecticides, springing forth as adults when conditions are ideal.
Often, when no fleas are seen, flea prevention is forgotten. But, the fleas you can see account for only 5 percent of the total flea population in an environment. If you’ve ever battled a flea infestation, you understand how much easier it is to prevent than treat these tiny terrors from invading your home. When treating a flea outbreak, don’t despair when they don’t immediately disappear. It can take up to three months to break the flea life-cycle and rid them from your home.
Another unpleasant bloodsucker, ticks also carry deadly diseases and wreak havoc on your pet’s health. In our area, ehrlichiosis is a common tick-borne disease. Carried by the deer tick, the lone star tick, and the American dog tick, ehrlichiosis affects 1 of 14 dogs tested. Ticks can also spread Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia. Most tick-borne diseases lead to similar symptoms. Watch out for these signs if you’ve found a tick on your pet:
● Loss of appetite
● Depression or lethargy
● Weight loss
● Stiff or swollen joints
● Neurological problems, such as seizures
Tick-borne diseases can be serious and should not be taken lightly. A tick attached to your pet for just 8 hours can transmit an infection that can turn deadly if not treated. And, with our mild Alabama winters, there is no “off-season” for ticks. The deer tick is on the hunt as long as temperatures are above freezing. Keep your pet from becoming a tick’s next meal by sticking with a preventive program.
Running low on your pet’s heartworm, flea, and tick preventive medications? Call us at 205-339-5555 for refills.