Heartworm, Fleas, and Ticks – OH MY!

There are two parts to your pets’ annual visit.

First off, there are all the things we take care of in the exam room – physical exam, vaccinations, stool test, heartworm test, and sometimes annual blood work. Then you have to consider all of the monthly preventatives you are advised to go home with.

If your pet needs grooming, special food, or has a chronic condition you surely have a cell dedicated to them on your monthly budgeting spreadsheet. It is not cheap to maintain the health and wellbeing of a pet, no matter what age, breed, or size.

With that said, the monthly preventatives recommended at their annual visit are often overlooked, as this expense can seem excessive after an often hectic trip to the vet. However as the days get warmer, there are three major cringe-worthy threats that make the preventatives worth reconsidering.


Let’s start with the least conspicuous and potentially most fatal– Heartworm.

Heartworm can be transmitted to your pet by mosquitos. Your pet is especially at risk for getting heartworm when they’re exposed to the ideal environment for mosquitoes – wet, warm, swampy areas. However this does NOT mean that your pet is safe in the winter. The biological function of heartworm prevention along with the fact that mosquitoes can still survive in your house during the winter means that veterinarians recommend year-round prevention without pause.Heartworm

Heartworm, to put it bluntly is, is a disgusting parasite. It takes up residence in your pets’ heart and can grow remarkably if left without treatment. If pet has heartworm and they are given the preventative, parts of this worm can break apart and create a clot elsewhere in your pets’ circulatory system – certainly a scenario that has the potential to be fatal. This fact alone is why heartworm tests are required annually and after lapses in monthly doses.

Fortunately for everyone involved, it is entirely preventable!


Ready to talk about something else? Ok, ok on to fleas.

These little critters can be found anywhere outside. They feast on your pet and can make them incredibly itchy. In some cases, they can even cause your pet to have an allergic reaction, leaving their skin very irritateflead or even infected.

There’s some more bad news about fleas – brace yourself.

So if you were to count all of the fleas on your pet’s body, that is only approximately one tenth of the total fleas in your pets’ immediate environment. So, nine tenths of the infestation isn’t even on your pet – it is hiding in your linens, couch, carpet, and dare I say even your bed! It takes an extensive amount of laundering, vacuuming, and patience to take care of an infested household.


I have one thing to mention as an aside – if you’re thinking to yourself “PHEW good thing my dog is the size of a peanut and only goes outside once in a blue moon”. Yes, your pet definitely has decreased exposure. However, fleas can enter your house on your shoes, through screens, or via any other critters that might come into your household or apartment building.

On to the good news. Fleas are also preventable! We used to recommend Frontline across the board, however today it seems that the fleas are somewhat resistant. The newest, latest, most effective product is called Nexgard. It’s chewable, just like Heartgard, and will kill fleas that try to bite your furry friends. It is worth noting though, that if you already have an infestation you will have to treat your house in addition to your pet!

One other bit of good news – when the winter is coming, all fleas must die. No really, if you live in a place where the temperature drops below freezing then you are in luck. You can get away with just treating your pet seasonally. Definitely don’t forget to restart your monthly preventative in the spring!


Last, but certainly not least. Ticks.

You and your best furry friend are cuddled up after a long day in the wilderness, and as you’re giving him a good pet you realize there is a blood-sucking tick burrowed in his skin. Ticks can transmit a number of different diseases to your pet, including Lyme, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichia.

tick-imageThere are many different kinds of ticks found in a variety of places, but your best bet is to ensure your pet is on a monthly tick preventative in the warmer months. If you notice a tick on your pet, you should call up your veterinarian to remove it to ensure that it is done so properly.

Nexgard also has a component that acts as a tick preventative – but you should always check with your local veterinarian to ensure that your pet is  protected against all the most popular ticks in your area!

Thanks for tuning in and feel free to submit any lingering questions you have about these creepy crawlers and their preventatives.