When you head outside to enjoy a summer day, you likely liberally douse yourself in bug spray to keep away mosquitoes, ticks, and other pests. But, do you use parasite preventives to protect your pet from the same bugs? These opportunistic bloodsuckers are looking for their next victim and will take advantage of an unprotected pet, spreading numerous diseases that can cause serious illness in your furry pal. Before hitting that wooded trail, or simply enjoying your lush backyard, brush up on your parasite knowledge by checking out the following mosquito and tick facts. 

#1: Parasitic diseases are becoming more widespread across the country

Certain tick species, along with their associated diseases, used to stick close to their home region. However, many diseases have spread across the country, and no pet is safe from infection. For example, Lyme disease was focused on the East Coast, but this insidious disease has spread much further west, thanks to the black-legged ticks’ hosts of choice. And, as urbanization takes over natural areas, the wildlife who host the parasites and their diseases are in much closer contact with your pet, and can more easily transmit illness. 

#2: Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease to pets

Unlike other “worms,” heartworms reside in your pet’s circulatory system, mostly in the large blood vessels surrounding the heart and lungs. And, unlike intestinal worms, heartworms are transmitted through an infected mosquito’s bite, rather than through feces, and they cannot be directly transmitted from pet to pet. As soon as an infected mosquito bites your pet, heartworm larvae enter the bite wound and begin migrating through your pet’s body to their heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels. 

#3: Unlike mosquitoes, ticks do not transmit disease with a quick bite

Your pet can be infected with heartworms only seconds after a mosquito bites, but ticks require much longer to transmit disease. For example, a black-legged tick must remain attached to your pet for 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Because of the lengthy transmission time, fast-acting tick prevention and checking your pet for ticks immediately after coming indoors are paramount for keeping your furry pal disease-free.

#4: Tick-borne diseases often cause similar signs in pets

Many tick-borne illnesses can affect your pet, and telling them apart based solely on clinical signs is challenging. Three of the most common tick-borne diseases—Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis—cause similar signs in pets, so diagnostic testing is necessary for an accurate diagnosis and to provide the best treatment. Tick-borne disease signs can include:

  • Lameness
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Inappetence

Lyme disease commonly causes a shifting leg lameness, anaplasmosis can lead to bleeding and bruising issues, and ehrlichiosis can cause neurologic problems. Since signs can be similar or appear with other medical conditions, your pet will need a thorough physical exam and diagnostic testing if they show any tick-borne illness signs.

#5: No pet is safe from parasitic diseases

You think your house cat is safe from heartworm disease because they never go outside? Think again. All pets can be exposed to parasitic diseases, whether or not they stay indoors 100% of the time. Mosquitoes can easily slip in through open doors or window screen holes, while ticks can hitch a ride inside on your pant leg. And, although cats are not the preferred heartworm host, they can still develop life-threatening disease. Rather than the typical coughing and exercise intolerance that dogs with heartworm disease display, cats can show asthma-like signs, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty walking, seizures, and sudden death. Keep your beloved pet safe from the threat of fatal parasitic diseases by ensuring they receive parasite prevention year round, whether or not they go outside.

#6: Treatment for parasitic diseases can be long, expensive, and hard on your pet

Many tick-borne diseases require at least a month-long course of antibiotic therapy, and may require hospitalization. Some pets may become so ill from tick-borne illnesses that they require a blood transfusion, anti-seizure medication, pain-relieving medications, or immunosuppressive medications.

Dogs with heartworm disease must be exercise restricted during their treatment course, which can take months. A series of injections are administered deep into your dog’s lumbar muscles, which can make your pet uncomfortable and unwell. The dying heartworms can cause serious side effects, which makes strict exercise restriction essential to minimize issues. Unfortunately, no heartworm treatment is approved for cats. 

#7: Protection is easier than treatment for your pet

Knowing how dangerous parasitic diseases can be for your pet, choosing prevention over treatment is a no-brainer. Fortunately, developing a parasite prevention program is simple, as you can choose the best option for your pet’s lifestyle from multiple prevention products. Through our online pharmacy, your parasite preventives can be delivered straight to your door every month, helping to ensure your pet never misses a dose.

Parasites can cause numerous potentially life-threatening illnesses, and it’s up to you to protect your furry pal from fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Contact our Liberty Veterinary Hospital team to discuss the parasite prevention option that is best for your pet.