Dr. Andy’s Pearls of Wisdom on Parasites Part I
Next to food, water, shelter and vaccines the next most important part of maintaining the health of your pet is parasite control. A parasite is an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment. There are several types of parasites that prey upon our pets and sometimes even the pet owners. These organisms not only steal nutrients from our pets, but they also spread disease and other parasites. Some of these pesky critters cause allergic responses that make our pets itchy and miserable. Preventing an infestation of parasites saves money and makes your pets life much more comfortable. There are so many products available to fight these creatures that it can be confusing. The needs of the pet and the depth of the wallet are two of the factors that must be considered when choosing the best parasite control. Over the course of the next few months, I will discuss the three main types of parasites and clarify the options for preventing them from making a meal of your pet.
The first and most life threatening parasite is the dreaded Diroflilaria immitis, commonly known as heartworms. The aptly name adult heartworm lives in the right ventricle of the heart and the pulmonary arteries. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Adult female heartworms produce 300 offspring a day in their five year lifespan. These offspring are referred to as microfilaria and when first produced they live in the small blood vessels. When a mosquito bites an infected dog it also ingests the microfilariae. The mosquito then incubates the microfilariae for ten to thirty days and then injects the now infective larvae into the next dog it bites. As the heartworm matures, it travels to the heart and surrounding large arteries. An infected dog can have as many as three hundred heartworms that interfere with the normal flow of blood from the right side of the heart to the vessels serving the lungs. In time the additional burden of the heartworms causes damage to the heart that leads to congestive heart failure. Heartworms disease left untreated will reduce the pet’s quality of life, and ultimately lead to death. While heartworms are predominately considered an issue with dogs, cats can also develop heartworm disease. Unfortunately, this condition in cats is almost always fatal and cannot be treated except with symptomatic relief.
In the case of heartworms, prevention is key to your pet’s wellbeing. The treatment for heartworms in not only very expensive, but the cost to your pet’s health is immeasurable. The prevention of heartworms can be confusing with so many options, but basically all the products available are once monthly applications. The most common and least expensive product is Heartgard Plus made by Merial. Heartgard is very effective and easy to give due to the fact that most dogs think it is a treat. The other products available at my practice are Interceptor/Sentinel, Advantage Multi, and Trifexis, which with the exception of Interceptor; also have some type of flea control added to them. Sentinel and Trifexis both have the heartworm prevention ingredient of Interceptor in them, but have different flea control ingredients. Sentinel has lufenuron, which is birth control for fleas but does not kill adult fleas. Trifexis has spinosad, which is better known as Comfortis, and effectively kills adult fleas for an entire month. Advantage Multi provides effective heartworm prevention in a topical application that contains the flea control of Advantage. Advantage Multi and Heartgard can both be used for heartworm prevention for cats as well. When choosing one of these products there are many factors to take into consideration. I would be happy to discuss all of the options and make a personalized recommendation for you and your pet.