Annual testing and year-round parasite prevention are important elements to your pet’s overall health and wellness, especially as symptoms are not always obvious.
The most commonly seen internal parasites in dogs and cats include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and giardia, all of which are very common in the Houston, TX, area. In most instances, external symptoms of infections are difficult to detect.
Unfortunately, many of these parasites can also be transmitted to humans from infected pets if not treated and without appropriate hygienic care. Biannual testing and monthly preventative measures are imperative in keeping both your pets and you safe against internal parasites.
Fleas and ticks are common external parasites in household pets and can be transmitted from animal to animal as well as through the environment. While many animals are exposed to fleas and ticks outdoors in yards, dog parks, and on walks, humans can also track these parasites into their homes on shoes and clothing.
The most notable symptoms of infection include itching, hair loss, allergies anemia, and skin infections. Fleas and ticks can also transmit other parasites, like tapeworms, or carry diseases, such as Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease.
The key to preventing fleas and ticks on your pets is keeping them on prevention year-round, especially in our location. If your pet is not on consistent prevention, it makes them more susceptible to infestations. Fleas especially can be an issue if your pet has had them before because they are likely to stay present in your home and can cause re-infection.
A common misconception is that fleas and ticks are inactive during fall and winter when they are actually active year-round, which is why continuous preventatives are so important. Consult with our team for more information about safe and effective flea prevention and treatment methods for your home.
Heartworms are unfortunately a common parasite transmitted by mosquitoes that can be fatal to both dogs and cats. Symptoms, especially in cats, are not always noticeable until the heartworms are more fully developed. Common symptoms include coughing, aversion to exercise, lethargy, and even sudden death. Especially in Texas and surrounding areas, heartworm prevention and early detection are important to combating heartworm disease.
Heartworms are a parasitic roundworm transmitted by mosquitoes that reside in the heart. It is possible for pets to show no clinical signs in the beginning stages of infection, but symptoms will become more obvious as it progresses. Common symptoms include decreased appetite, weight loss, decreased exercise, breathing problems, and even heart failure.
While not all mosquitoes carry heartworm, once a mosquito has bitten a heartworm-positive animal, it can spread it to any other animal it feeds on. We cannot always control what our pets are exposed to, and even indoor-only cats can become infected.
Thankfully, our pets cannot spread heartworms to one another, so it is not contagious between dogs or cats. However, if one of your pets has heartworms, this makes them a “carrier” and a potential source of infection to other pets in the household. Therefore, all pets in the home should be tested biannually and covered by routine preventative care.
Yes, both dogs and cats are susceptible to heartworm disease.
In the early stages, many dogs and cats show little to no symptoms. However, the longer the infection persists undiagnosed and untreated, the more likely you will see your pet develop symptoms. Symptoms in cats are usually either nearly noticeable, or severe, and can be different than those seen in dogs.
Symptoms in dogs:
- Mild cough
- Reluctance to exercise
- Fatigue after moderate activity
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Symptoms in cats:
- Asthma attacks
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
Heartworms can be detected and diagnosed in a few different ways.
The most common way to test for heartworms is through a blood test. This requires a small blood draw from your pet which is then evaluated for a toxin (heartworm antigen) that stimulates an immune response.
It is possible, however, for heartworms to be at such an early stage that they do not produce a positive blood test. In this case, a more comprehensive blood panel can be performed, including CBC and thyroid testing, to produce an accurate result.
Other forms of testing include radiographs (X-rays) or echocardiograms.
The most effective way to protect your pet from heartworm is consistent, year-round prevention!
Additionally, you can use a variety of methods to deter mosquitoes from your pets, such as screen doors, closed windows, and limiting access to stagnant water and other mosquito-infested areas.
If your pet has been tested for heartworm and is negative, you can start them on either monthly medication or consider an injectable prevention for dogs. Ask your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your pet and your lifestyle.
While humans can be infected with heartworm through the bite of an infected mosquito, the heartworm parasite is not able to survive in the human bloodstream.