Vet Blog

Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention Guide

April 26, 2019

If you have been a pet owner for a while, or if you are new to pet ownership but you have done your research, you will probably know that there are a range of different parasites that can affect our adorable pets.

As caring and responsible owners, it is up to us to be proactive in keeping our pets safe from anything that could cause them pain, suffering, and harm - and this includes the parasites that they are at risk of contracting.

Three of the most common parasites that affect unprotected animals living in Atlanta, GA are fleas, ticks, and heartworms. Each poses their own threat to the health and wellbeing of your pet, and in some cases, the human members of your family too.

To help you keep your pet and your family safe from the effects of these parasites, here is our flea, tick, and heartworm prevention guide.

About Fleas

Fleas are one of the common parasites and most pets will experience a flea infestation at least once during their lifetime. They live on your pet's skin, drinking her blood to survive. Unfortunately, not only does this present a risk of anemia in large infestations, but their saliva also contains toxins that cause irritation and severe itching. Some pets experience an extreme reaction, and this is known as flea allergy dermatitis. Fleas can also carry diseases such as tapeworms and Bartonella.

If the effect of fleas on your pet wasn't bad enough, fleas can also be bad news for your family and home. Although they prefer the blood of your pet, they will happily take a meal or two off of any human that they can bite. They reproduce at an immense rate, meaning that infestations can get out of control very quickly and they are very hard to eliminate entirely.

About Ticks

Ticks are another external parasite that lives on your pet's skin. Although it is possible for an animal to suffer from a large number of ticks, it is more typical to have just a few at a time. Tick's bodies enlarge when they eat, swelling in size. Once full, they drop off. Ticks are largely found lurking in wooded areas and tall grasses, ready to climb on to passing hosts.

Unfortunately, ticks are well known for their ability to spread diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis. Some of these can make animals (and humans who are also a favorite food of ticks!) very unwell.

About Heartworms

Heartworms are a form of internal parasite. This means that while they derive nutrition directly from your pet, they live insider their body. Heartworms live inside your pet's heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels where they can grow up to 12 inches in length and reproduce, creating more and more of these long, thin worms. Their presence affects the flow of blood around the body to these organs and others. Eventually, if there are enough heartworms, blood flow can be completely blocked, and organ failure can occur. Pets who aren't treated are almost guaranteed to succumb to the disease.

Heartworms are spread by mosquitos. Since it is impossible to tell which mosquitos are carrying heartworms just by looking at them, it is recommended that all dogs, cats, and ferrets are protected regardless of where they live.

Preventing Fleas, Ticks, and Heartworms

Fortunately, all three of these parasites are completely preventable. Better still, owners have a range of choices when it comes to deciding on a preventative for their pet. There are numerous brands available, as well as different types of applications, from chewable tablets to spot-on treatments. There is even an injectable preventative. While some preventatives focus on keeping your pet safe from just one, specific parasite, there are plenty that contains ingredients that will protect your pet from a number of different parasites with just one dose. Since all preventatives contain an array of ingredients, it is important to check that each product is suitable for your specific pet before you administer it. Your veterinarian in Atlanta, GA will be able to help you by recommending which are best for your pet.

The most important thing to remember about any preventative treatment is that it doesn't mean your pet is permanently protected. If you select a product marketed as a monthly preventative, it is just that and will need to be administered every month at the same time in order to keep your pet fully protected. If you miss a dose or even are late by just a day or two, your pet could be at risk of contracting a parasite.

In addition to personal preventatives for your pet, there are also an array of products designed for flea and tick prevention that you can utilize for your home and yard. Follow the instructions on the product carefully to ensure that neither you nor any pets have an adverse reaction to the treatment.

For more information on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention, please don't hesitate to get in touch with our knowledgeable and experienced team of veterinarians in Atlanta, GA by calling (404) 584-8761 or visiting Inman Park Animal Hospital.