For millions of years parasites have ruled this planet. They have successfully integrated themselves into our daily lives. They influence the way we grow our crops and inspect our food, but also they can affect our pets.
Pet parasites are very common. They range from external parasites like fleas, mites and lice to internal parasites like heartworm, roundworm and coccidia. Not only do these parasites have their own effect on our pets, but they also can carry additional diseases.
Ticks carry and transmit Lyme's disease while fleas carry plague. So not only can these parasites affect our pets but they can carry zoonotic diseases that affect humans as well. That is why it is important to protect your pets from these very parasites mentioned above. There is a wide variety of medications that can treat and or prevent pet parasites.
When choosing which preventative would best fit your pet, you must ask, where do I live? Where does my pet go? And, which of these will my pet likely be exposed to? To answer these questions we must look at the parasites themselves and the preventative used against them.
The most well-known parasite and possibly most treated for, are fleas. A flea's life cycle can be 21 days to 2 years. The reason is because of their indestructible eggs. Nothing kills the eggs or can penetrate them. Our only defense is to remove them from the environment in which they are deposited. Do not bother with chemicals and powders and bombs. These only add more chemicals to your house. Simple laundering of bedding and vacuuming can remove a significant portion of the eggs, which is 90% of the flea population to begin with. The adults and larva can be handled by any variety of flea preventatives. Heartworm, like the name says, are worms that set up in the greater vessels of the heart. It is transmitted from one dog to the next by mosquitoes. The heaviest regions of the country are the Deep south and Mississippi river valley. But this does not mean that heartworm does not exist in the Northeast US or Pacific Northwest. Both areas have their share. Ticks will hide in shrub type areas or wooded areas that are shaded. While the intestinal parasites like roundworm and others like the protozoa coccidia, are in the soil everywhere. Some of these like whipworm can have eggs that survive extreme weather and last in the soil for years.
There are many preventatives available for these parasites whether for individual parasites or a combination of parasites. Flea preventatives can come as a tablet or as a topical liquid that is applied to the skin. Be aware of which are for cats and which are only for dogs. There are over the counter store brands and prescription brands. Many store brand preventatives can cause skin reactions or even seizures. While prescription preventatives from your veterinarian, though more expensive have been proven to be safer and cause less if any reactions. Also, some flea preventatives will be a combination type where not only does it have an effect against fleas but also intestinal parasites, heartworm or ticks. Heartworm preventatives require a blood test before beginning your pet on them. The reason is because most are so affective against the adult worms that it creates a mass kill and could cause an embolism. So talk to your veterinarian before beginning any preventative.
A variety of preventatives are readily available on internet pet pharmacies and from your veterinarian. Ask your veterinarian which specific products they recommend or have available. Discuss possible exposures based on where you live or take your pet to. A house cat may benefit most from a simple flea preventative while a hunting dog may require flea and tick preventative or flea, heartworm and intestinal parasite preventative. Regardless of where you live, using and applying these preventatives year round is recommended.