DOCTOR'S CORNER: MOSQUITOS AND FLEAS

Warmer weather means spring is coming, and with it a resurgence of pests. Most people think that fleas are only a problem in the summer, but fleas can live in your house and on your pet all year round Fleas have a life cycle like a butterfly.

The adult flea lays eggs; they hatch into small larvae, and then spin a cocoon. The adult flea emerges from the cocoon and then finds a home on your pet. Because of this complex life cycle, it is important to keep your pet on preventative all year round. They are biting insects, and like mosquitoes, live on a blood meal from the host.

Fleas are responsible for a lot of misery, their bites provoke intense itching and allergies and the adult fleas transmit tapeworms. Sometimes these bites result in more serious hot spots or skin infections.

As humans we know how irritating mosquitoes are, and concern ourselves with West Nile virus. Pets on the other hand risk becoming infected with heartworms. Heartworms are not contagious from pet to pet and are only transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Adult female heartworms release microfilariae (babies) into an animal's bloodstream. Then when they take a blood meal, the microfilariae are passed from the animal to the mosquito. Once the microfilariae have developed into the infective larvae stage, they can be passed from the mosquito into a cat, dog or other susceptible animal. It takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to become adult worms. If not treated, heartworm disease is fatal.

Dogs with early stages of heartworm disease may not show any sign of illness. Eventually you will see signs such as a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to exercise or play, fatigue after small amounts of exercise, decreased appetite, and weight loss.

Unfortunately in cats signs are often very non-specific and may appear like asthma, or bronchitis. Heartworm disease in cats affects mainly the lungs, which is why it can be even harder to diagnose properly and there is currently no available treatment for cats.

As you may or may not know, the Midwest is one of the top regions in the U.S. for heartworm disease. Be sure to stop by or call to get your supply of Revolution to prevent both of these problems as well as others. Dogs MUST have a negative result on a heartworm blood test BEFORE beginning a heartworm preventative.

Return to Pet Points