Virginia is a perfect environment for many parasites of dogs and cats! Fortunately, we have a wide variety of products that protect Skipper and other pups from these nasty pests. It’s recommended to have puppies over 6 weeks of age started on preventive products, to make sure their little puppy bodies aren’t susceptible to diseases and complications secondary to a parasite burden. Let’s go through a few of the parasites we protect against:
Heartworm disease is transmitted through mosquito bites, meaning that every dog and cat is at risk of contracting this disease. Heartworms set up shop in a chamber of the animal’s heart and can have devastating, even deadly, consequences on cardiac and respiratory function. There is a treatment for canine heartworm disease. The treatment process occurs over several months, and unfortunately, some parts of the treatment can cause significant discomfort to the dog. There are also notable risks/complications possible. It’s SO much easier for the dog, and safer, to prevent the disease rather than treat it after the fact. Cats, on the other hand, have no approved treatment. It’s also much harder to identify this disease in cats, and often the first sign is sudden death.
Even though mosquitoes are much less prevalent in the winter, Virginia winters CAN be mild enough on certain days that pets are still at risk. Think back to that occasional 60-degree day this January! Skipper was so excited to get out and play fetch in the false spring, but also very exciting for mosquitoes and other bugs. For this reason, we recommend consistent, year-round heartworm prevention administration. Many heartworm preventive products also have the benefit of helping to cover for several types of intestinal parasites. While cats less commonly contract heartworm disease, the disease is much more severe. For this reason, it’s also recommended that all cats are on heartworm prevention, as mosquitoes can make their way into the house.
Dogs should be tested once a year to ensure they are negative for heartworm disease, EVEN IF they are on consistent preventive products. Preventives are extremely effective, but there are a few resistant heartworms out there, that can squeeze by monthly medication. Annual testing ensures that we catch and treat any sneaky infections early on. If you’ve recently adopted a pet with an unknown preventive history, or if you happened to miss a few doses, additional testing may be recommended. Also, the “heartworm test” has the benefit of looking for three tick-borne diseases (ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and lyme disease) in addition to heartworms.
Aldie’s veterinarians recommend using a monthly oral or topical preventive:
Oral products: these are typically a flavored tablet or chew given by mouth once monthly. This is the easiest option and the most common choice of pet owners. Most of the products taste delicious; Skipper thinks he’s just getting another treat! I can even get some good high five’s before giving his medication. It’s really a win-win situation for us!
Topical: this is more commonly used to administer heartworm prevention in cats, though there are topical dog products as well.
In-House Pharmacy – We maintain a complete inventory of pharmaceuticals, vitamins, shampoos, heartworm preventatives, prescription diets that require supervision of a licensed veterinarian, and flea and tick preventative to meet the needs of your pet. When your pet requires an ongoing prescription to refill, we recommend ordering from our online pharmacy.
Aldie Veterinary Hospital recommends giving your pet dog or cat its heartworm preventative monthly. Whether the preventive you choose is given as a pill, a spot-on topical medication or as an injection, all approved heartworm medications work by eliminating the immature (larval) stages of the heartworm parasite. This includes the infective heartworm larvae deposited by the mosquito as well as the following larval stage that develops inside the animal. Unfortunately, in as little as 51 days, immature heartworm larvae can molt into an adult stage, which cannot be effectively eliminated by preventives. Because heartworms must be eliminated before they reach this adult stage, it is extremely important that heartworm preventives be administered strictly on schedule (monthly for oral and topical products and every 6 months for the injectable). Administering prevention late can allow immature larvae to molt into the adult stage, which is poorly prevented.
Giving it on the 1st of the month is probably the easiest to remember. Also, don’t forget to apply your flea and tick preventative monthly.