October 20, 2021

Why do Veterinarians insist on your animals being protected against fleas and heartworms? This is a question asked by many individuals who own pets today. Today we will look at the side effects of not preventing infestation of these parasites.

Fleas – gross little biting insects that usually stay on your pet (cat, dog, prairie dog, squirrel, etc., not chickens or fowl). These insects, however when in large numbers, can bite humans as well. They feed on blood. They really like dog and cat blood, but if there is not enough to go around, they will feed on human blood as well.

Many of your animals are allergic to these pesky parasites. One flea bite to an animal that is allergic can cause a severe allergic reaction. This reaction is seen by a severe intense itching followed by severe inflammation of the skin as well as pustules and crusting areas. These areas will often bleed due to the deep scratching and biting that follows. This condition must be treated by a Veterinarian in order to stop the cycle. These pets should remain on flea and tick prevention for life. All of the pets in their household should remain on prevention as well. These are normally treated with a short coarse of steroids as well as antibiotics.

Another sequella to fleas and ticks are the diseases they bring with them. Fleas will bring tapeworms. By your pet biting where the flea is feeding on their body, they ingest the flea. Fleas carry tapeworms, so by your animal ingesting the flea, they have ingested the tapeworm as well. Some fleas also carry the plague. The plague is mostly in the mid-western states such as Colorado, but can spread any where. In Colorado, the prairie dog population carry the plague and the fleas will infect household animals that come into contact with the prairie dogs and their environment.

Ticks carry a variety of diseases such as, Erlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Babesia. These are all diseases that affect the red blood cells in some form or fashion. Usually the parasites are attached to the red blood cell causing the body to destroy the red blood cell due to the parasite attachment. These diseases must be treated by a Veterinarian. One other disease that is well known by all, especially if you live in the north eastern area, is Lyme disease. This disease is passed on by ticks as well. It causes severe joint pain and inflammation. Fun Fact: There are many pockets of Lyme disease within the state of Florida! Most of these areas are in the northern part of the state especially in the state parks.

Lastly there is the issue of Heartworm disease. This is passed by mosquitoes. The mosquito bites an animal that has the disease and ingests the larval stage of the parasite. The mosquito then bites another animal and inserts the larval stage into the unsuspecting animal. If the animal is on prevention, the larva will be killed. If the animal is not on prevention, the larva goes on to mature into an adult heartworm which will live in the heart of the host.

Fun Fact: Mosquitoes do live in your household. So even if your pet is indoors 24/7, they should still be on prevention. Especially in Florida and the southern United States region.

Lately we have seen an incidence of heartworm positive dogs that are tested with the snap test that most clinics use, show up negative. This is usually due to the protein that the snap test reacts to being bound by the host cells. Thus the snap test can not react to the protein and give you a positive result. There is a way to obtain an accurate result, but it takes time to perfect. So even if your dog or cat is tested and are negative, this does not necessarily mean they are negative.

All of these diseases and parasites are more costly to treat than to prevent. It may seem like the prevention is very expensive, but in the long run, treating the disease, if your pet survives, is more expensive than the prevention.

Protect your pets by keeping them on prevention for fleas, ticks, and heartworms!