Keep pests away.
Your pet is an easy target for parasites. Pests like ticks, fleas and heartworm-carrying mosquitoes feed on our pets, potentially infecting them with many dangerous diseases in the process. These parasites may be small, but the problems they can cause are rather large.
All pet owners in California should administer year-round broad-spectrum parasite control that protects against heartworm, intestinal parasites with zoonotic potential, fleas and ticks. Dana Niguel Veterinary Hospital administers dewormers to puppies and kittens starting at two weeks of age, repeating administration every two weeks until regular broad-spectrum parasite control begins. We recommend keeping pregnant and nursing pets on broad-spectrum control products as well.
Common Parasites in Southern California
Fleas feed on mammals and lay eggs in their fur. They can transmit harmful parasites like tapeworms and murine typhus and can cause dermatitis and anemia. One flea can reproduce nearly 50 times a day, so one or two fleas can quickly turn into an infestation. Because they spread throughout the home, living sneakily in carpet and furniture, they’re tough to eradicate, so it’s best to keep them from ever meeting your pets in the first place.
Ticks lurk in shrubs and tall grass. Though they’re nearly microscopic, ticks pose an incredible threat to our pets. A single tick bite can pass along a host of potentially fatal diseases including Lyme disease, typhus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis. Although it’s fairly rare, ticks can also move from animals to humans and vice versa, so they’re a threat to everyone in the family. After spending time outside in wooded areas, take special care to inspect your pet and yourself for ticks.
Mosquitoes transmit heartworm from animal to animal. Once larva has been transferred, it slowly develops in the blood vessels and makes its way to the heart. There, it multiplies in the pulmonary artery. Eventually, as it develops, heartworm can cause constricted blood flow, heart disease and major organ failure.
Dana Niguel Veterinary Hospital’s parasite control guidelines reflect the guidelines from the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC):
- We prescribe control programs based on prevalence of local parasites and every pet’s individual lifestyle factors. We also adapt prevention recommendations to address emerging parasite threats.
- We recommend physical examinations at least every six to 12 months.
- We recommend annual heartworm testing in dogs before administering preventative medications and regularly thereafter based on history and physical findings.
- We strongly recommend conducting fecal examinations two to four times during a pet’s first year and then one to two times per year for adults, depending on the pet’s health and other lifestyle factors.
Tips for reducing parasite risks:
- Feed pets cooked or prepared food (not raw diets unless you’re using pasteurized meals and strict sanitary protocols) and provide plenty of fresh, potable water at all times.
- Cover sandboxes when they’re not in use and protect garden areas from fecal contamination.
- Pick up feces immediately whenever walking your dog in a Dana Point public area. Remove feces from your backyard at least weekly.
- Report raccoon latrines. Raccoon feces can harbor dangerous zoonotic parasites.
- Practice good personal hygiene when handling animal waste. This is particularly important for children and other individuals with weaker immune systems.
- Start deworming puppies and kittens at two weeks of age, repeating every two weeks until they are two months old. Then, administer deworming medication monthly until your pet is six months old.
- Conduct fecal examinations two to four times a year in adult pets, depending on patient health and lifestyle factors, and treat with appropriate parasiticides.
For additional information regarding pets and parasites, refer to the Center for Disease Control’s website for pet health care.
Schedule an appointment at Dana Niguel Veterinary Hospital immediately if you suspect that your cat or dog may already be infected with parasites.