Heartworms and Fleas and Ticks, Oh My!

Dr. Hillary Segl

Now that winter has finally gone, it’s time to think about preventing parasites in your pets. Any pet that goes outside and touches ground is at risk. Even indoor pets in multi-family buildings may be exposed to fleas and ticks from common hallways, etc.  What to use? Fleas and ticks can be kept off your pet with a “topical” medication- one that is applied to the skin and stays on the outside of the pet. Frontline Plus for both cats and dogs works well. Advantixx is for dogs only; the Advantage product is for cats but does not kill ticks. Flea collars generally don’t work, with rare exceptions. A newer product is Nexgard, a tasty chewable tablet that kills fleas and ticks and is quite safe. It is labeled for dogs only. Ask us about this option- no oils or other stuff in your pet’s fur! All of these products are used once a month.

Heartworms are a parasite of the bloodstream. The larval form (baby worms) are carried from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Once the larva grow up, they become a long, spaghetti-like worm living in the heart. Preventing these is very important; there is treatment for this infection but it is very expensive and painful. Dogs undergoing treatment must be kept absolutely quiet (e.g. crated) for many weeks after getting the medication. This parasite is easily prevented.

Heartgard is a chewable tablet given once a month to prevent heartworms, and as a bonus it prevents most intestinal worms too! (And we all know dogs like to eat things that are gross.) Other monthly oral options include Sentinel, Interceptor, and some generic brands. There is one topical medicine called Revolution that is supposed to prevent all common parasites: heartworms, intestinal worms, fleas and ticks. It does not prevent tick infestation, so we usually do not recommend it. It is also not a true topical; this medicine is put on the skin but absorbs into the blood stream.

We love to see folks out enjoying the good weather with their pets: please be safe and don’t bring parasites into your home, or let them live inside your pet! Remember that ticks carry many diseases like Lyme disease that can be given to people, with awful consequences. Use heartworm and flea and tick prevention monthly. Come talk to us for more information or to help you decide which is best for your pet.