Parasite Control

Parasite control is an important part of your pets’ preventative health care program. Fleas, ear mites, and intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, giardia, coccidia) are encountered quite commonly in both dogs and cats. Other parasites that we encounter less frequently include mange mites (sarcoptes and demodex), cheylitiella (“walking dandruff), and lice. For our canine patients, heartworm is another parasite that is frequently discussed.

A flea problem on your pet may mean a flea problem in your home! Fleas cause itch and irritation to both pets and humans alike and can also spread tapeworm to our four-legged friends! Some pets suffer from flea allergies, and can develop severe skin problems as a result of a flea infestation. Understanding the flea life cycle and methods for its control can be a daunting task. We will gladly assist you in this process. We can provide you with safe, effective flea prevention and if necessary, flea treatment. For dogs, we encourage flea prevention as part of their annual heartworm prevention program.

Ear mites most commonly affect young kittens. These highly contagious mites can also infect puppies and older cats and dogs. The mites cause a typical brown, “coffee-ground” like discharge in the ears, and can be quickly diagnosed by an ear swab. If mites are detected, we recommend treating all in contact pets due to the contagious nature of these little critters!

Internal parasites are of primary concern in puppies and kittens, but can also be a concern in the adult pets as well, depending on their lifestyle. Many internal parasite infections are sub-clinical, meaning we see no outward sign of infection. In other cases, diarrhea or soft stools may be noted. Stool samples are often used to determine if parasites are present, and in some cases, deworming medications are used based on suspicion of an infection, especially in high risk patients (such as the felines who hunt). Many of the medications recommended for heartworm prevention in our canine patients also provide excellent internal parasite control.

Heartworm is a parasite spread between dogs by mosquitos. The immature parasites are passed from the mosquitos and travel through the bloodstream to the large blood vessels in the chest where they stay and mature to the adult life stage. The reproductively active adults release immature microfilarial stages into the bloodstream which can then be picked up by mosquitos to continue the cycle. Certain environmental requirements are necessary for infection to occur, and we are seeing those conditions more and more frequently and in more and more areas. Our approach to heartworm is a preventative one, as prevention has proven to be both safe and effective. Dogs require heartworm prevention from June 1- November 1 each year, and we also recommend blood tests to screen for possible infection, even for the dogs that are on the preventative medications. The veterinarians will discuss the schedule for testing appropriate for the individual patient.

Please refer to specific articles in the Pet Health Library for details of specific parasite infections. If you have specific questions, please ask our veterinary staff. Remember, that we are your best source of information regarding parasite control for your pets!

Hill’s Atlas illustrations are reprinted with permission by the copyright owner, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc