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Fleas, Ticks, and Heartworms in Dogs

Does your dog have a flea, tick, and heartworm problem?

 

Fleas, ticks, and heartworms are types of parasites that can come into contact with your dog.  Usually, this contact is through another animal, or insect, or environment that carries these parasites. Flea, tick and heartworm infestations can have varying degrees of severity and discomfort.  While fleas and ticks are very bothersome, these parasites are not life-threatening.  Some of the annoying  symptoms include itching, scratching, as well as skin conditions (e.g. flea allergy dermatitis and eczema).

On the other hand, heartworm is a potentially deadly parasite that manifests itself over several life stages. Heart worm’s  most common hosts are dogs. However, heart-worms can also infect many other mammals including cats, wolves, coyotes, foxes, ferrets, sea lions, and even humans. The infection of healthy canines usually comes from infected mosquitoes.

Fleas and ticks are annoying and bothersome; but they are rarely as life-threatening as heart-worms.

The parasite lives in the bloodstream and it eventually attacks the heart, lungs, and other organs of the host’s body. Early symptoms of the infection include a soft cough during exertion (e.g. running or aggressive play). As the ailment progresses, the infected animal becomes lethargic and experiences weight loss.

Once the disease has reached this stage, the animal is in mortal danger and will likely die from the parasite. Heartworm lives on every continent except Antarctica. In the United States, heart worm disease is most prevalent along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mid-Atlantic states.  This includes New Jersey, New York, as well as along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. However, the disease has been reported in dogs in all 50 states. Potential infestation is also more prevalent in humid climates, rural areas, high grass regions, and areas with standing water.

Flea, Tick and Heartworm Preventatives

The origins of flea, tick, and heartworm infestation dates back to the origins of recorded pet history. Much of the importance of modern heartworm, tick, and flea preventatives lies in their ability to control endoparasites.  They are also important because of their ability to prevent heartworm disease and other health-related complications. One of the biggest hurdles to preventing infection is achieving adequate owner compliance in regards to the recommended monthly dose of preventative medications.

According to one study, only about 48% to 59% of domestic dogs in the United States receive monthly preventatives as of 2009.  This study also counts the average number of doses dispensed only 5.4 per year. Moreover, approximately 40% of dog owners in another study were unaware that most preventative medications were also effective against intestinal parasites.

 

Heartworm Disease