Paw prints: Fleas, ticks and worms … Oh my!

Community Columnist

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. They can infect dogs and cats, causing life-threatening heart and lung damage. Heartworm disease is easily and inexpensively preventable with a monthly pill, however there are too many dogs that are unprotected.

In the past, heartworm disease was not as prevalent in our region, but according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, the occurrence of heartworm in the northeast will be higher than in previous years.

If your pet becomes infected, treatment is very costly and can have significant complications. The cost of a single treatment is more than multiple years of the monthly preventative pill.

Roundworms, Hookworms and Whipworms are all very common intestinal parasites. Your pet can become infected by ingestion of contaminated stool, soil and water or by licking contaminated paws and fur. Indoor only pets can become infected with roundworms from commercial potting soil.

People can become infected by these parasites as well if good hygiene is not practiced. Children are particularly vulnerable to infection if they play in areas that may be contaminated with animal feces such as dirt piles and uncovered sandboxes.

In animals, infection can cause intestinal upset or malnutrition. In people, more serious disease can develop because the worms can enter other organs causing brain and liver damage or permanent blindness. Luckily these parasites are easily killed with the proper medication.

The monthly heartworm pill that your dog should be on will also treat these nasty worms. If you have children in your home, having your dog on monthly heartworm pills is a must to keep them and your pets healthy.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one product available to prevent all of the above parasites, so a combination of medicine is necessary. For example, a topical preventative for killing fleas and ticks along with a heartworm pill every month will provide adequate control. If you do not like the topical, there are other options as well.

As always, call your veterinarian to determine what is best for your own pet. Currently, many drug manufacturers are offering discounts when their product is purchased only at an animal hospital.

Dr. Anne Weiskotten Galton is a veterinarian at Cazenovia Animal Hospital. She can be reached through the editor at editor@cazenoviarepublican.com.

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