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The Essential Guide to Monthly Pet Preventatives: Deworming and Flea/Tick Protection

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Are you worried about the creepy crawlies that can plague your beloved fur babies? You're not alone. In regions like South Carolina, the risk doesn't subside even in the winter months. So, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of monthly preventatives, which are paramount for both cats and dogs.



Worms & Parasites: The Unseen Menace


Both cats and dogs are susceptible to a variety of worms and parasites. Not only can these pests cause discomfort or illness in our pets, but some also pose risks to us, their human companions. Here's a breakdown:


Heartworms: Prominent in areas with mosquitoes (like South Carolina). It's deadly for dogs and difficult to treat in cats. Heartworm disease is preventable, but once contracted, it can be challenging and costly to treat. (More info)


Roundworm
Roundworm. Source: https://bvna.org.uk/blog/rotten-roundworms-parasite-webinar-series/

Roundworms: These are particularly common in puppies and kittens. They can be transmitted to humans, especially children, leading to a condition called "visceral larva migrans," where worms enter through your skin (often bare feet) and can migrate just about anywhere in your body. Scary!





Tapeworms
Tapeworms. Source: https://www.wikihow.pet/Diagnose-Tapeworms-in-Dogs

Tapeworms: Often seen as rice-like segments in the pet's stool or near their rear end. Some can be transmitted via fleas, and others through ingestion of prey like rodents. Also note: if you've seen fleas on your pet, the odds that they make have tapeworms is high, so I usually recommend deworming for tapeworms in these situations.



Hookworms
Hookworms. Source: https://health.wusf.usf.edu/npr-health/2015-07-21/trying-to-get-the-world-unhooked-from-hookworm

Hookworms: These parasites can cause anemia in pets, especially in young ones. Zoonotic potential exists, leading to skin issues in humans.







Flea dirt
Flea dirt. Source: http://www.cahillanimalhospital.co.nz/dermatology-causes-of-itchy-skin-in-dogs.html

Fleas: These tiny, quick-moving pests can infest your pet and your home, leading to a slew of issues. Beyond the constant itching and scratching, fleas can also cause allergic reactions, anemia (in heavy infestations), and even transmit tapeworms and a variety of bacterial diseases. While fleas typically prefer our four-legged friends, they can and will bite humans, causing itchy welts. Note: Just because you do not see fleas or flea dirt (see photo) does not mean they are not there! In our area, if your pet is not on a monthly preventative, the odds are high that it has fleas, even if it is indoor only. I cannot over-emphasize that our area is intense for parasites.



Different sizes of ticks
Different sizes of ticks. Source: California Dept of Public Health

Ticks: More than just a nuisance, ticks are arachnids that latch onto the skin of hosts, including our pets and sometimes us. Ticks can transmit several diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These can have severe implications for a pet's health. Ticks don’t discriminate when it comes to their hosts. Diseases like Lyme can be transmitted to humans with potential long-term consequences. If your pet has any access to the outdoors, I strongly recommend tick coverage. I've had Lyme positive pets who live in suburbs.



Ear mites
Ear mites during ear exam. For full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pOg19D4xmU

Ear Mites: These tiny mites are a common issue, especially in cats. Ear mites live in the ear canal, feeding on skin debris. Their presence leads to severe itching, inflammation, and a characteristic dark, coffee-ground-like discharge in the ears. If left untreated, they can cause infections and damage to the eardrum. Flea preventative products like Revolution (Plus), Advantage Multi, and Bravecto Plus also will treat and prevent ear mites, so no separate product is needed.



Year-Round Prevention is Key


In South Carolina, the saying "better safe than sorry" holds, especially concerning pet health. It's a misconception that parasites hibernate during winter. They can still pose a threat, making year-round prevention not just a recommendation, but a necessity.



"It's a misconception that parasites hibernate during winter."



Preventatives vs. Treatment Products

While the market brims with various products, they're not created equal:


Valid Monthly Preventatives: These are designed to offer ongoing protection, stopping infestations before they begin.

Treatment Products: Products like Capstar are specifically for treating active flea infestations. They aren't meant for monthly prevention. Remember, a proactive approach is always better than a reactive one.

Beware of Flea Baths & Sprays: Not all are effective, and some can even be harmful. Always consult with your vet before using any product on your pet.




The Effectiveness Question


All products aren't foolproof. For instance, while Frontline is a recognized brand, there have been reports of resistance issues in some areas, including ours. So, it's essential to know which products are currently effective in your region and to seek expert advice.



Conclusion


Our pets rely on us to keep them safe from internal and external parasites. Armed with knowledge and a proactive approach, we can ensure our furry friends live comfortable, healthy lives. Always consult with your veterinarian to choose the right preventative care for your pet.

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