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BB's Nine Lives List

896 W. Laketon Ave Muskegon Mi, 49441   
(231) 759-7387

BB's Nine Lives List

BB came to live with us in January 2011. She is one of our resident mascots and greeters.  Check back frequently for her Nine Lives List. She will be imparting her veterinary wisdom to help your pet live a longer, happier, healthier life.

9 Common Questions About Parasites and Your Pet

Warm weather is here and common questions arise about fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and the diseases they cause. Contrary to what most people believe, these are not seasonal issues. Mosquitoes are typically warm weather bugs, but ticks can live in below freezing weather and fleas are a definite nuisance year round! Keep on reading for more fun facts about these creepy crawlies and the ways they can affect your pets.

1.  Is my pet still susceptible to mosquitoes, fleas and ticks even if it stays indoors? Yes! Unless your pet lives in a plastic bubble, it will be exposed to mosquitoes (which is the carrier of heartworm disease) and likely even fleas. Though your pet may not spend much time outdoors, these pesky bugs can enter your home through screens, open doors and windows, or hitch-hiking on your shoes, to name a few. Parasites and insects are determined to find a feeding source and your pet is the perfect candidate!

2.  Does my pet need to stay on monthly flea, heartworm and tick preventative year round? Even a brief warm spell in winter can give ticks and fleas the cue to emerge and hatch from a hibernating state and infest your dog or cat. Flea eggs can lay dormant for many months and then hatch suddenly under the right conditions. Winter is a common time for this to occur, especially with the start of the furnace. Visiting pets during the holidays can also transfer parasites from one pet to another. Prevention year round is your pet's best protection!

3.  Adult fleas are only the tip of the iceberg. Four stages exist in the flea life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae and the adults. Typically the live adult fleas we see are only 5% of what is actually living in the environment. The other 95% consists of the eggs, larvae and pupae unnoticed in your home's carpet and furniture, waiting to hatch! Flea infestations take at least 3 to 4 months to resolve with consistent treatments. Re-infestation can occur easily with only one or two remaining fleas or eggs.  Keeping your pet on monthly flea control will prevent these infestations!

4.  Flea allergies are more than just an itch. Did you know that some dogs and cats are allergic to the flea saliva? Therefore one flea bite can cause intense itching for several days to even weeks and result in secondary skin infections. Fleas can also transmit tapeworm to your dog or cat and cause anemias (low red blood cell count) in puppies and kittens.

5. Ticks can be active in the winter too! That's right! Adult deer ticks become active every year after the first frost. They are not killed by freezing temperatures, and while other ticks enter a feeding diapause as day-lengths get shorter, deer ticks will still be active any winter day that the ground is not snow covered or frozen. This surprises most people, especially during a January thaw or early spring day. Remember this fact and hopefully you'll never get caught off-guard.

6. The 24 hour window! Most ticks need to attach and feed for approximately 24 hours before it can transmit disease. Many of the disease causing microbes transmitted by a tick need a "re-activation" period after the tick begins to feed. The microbes eventually make their way into the tick's salivary glands. Some infections, especially viruses, move at a faster rate than others. Lyme disease bacteria takes at least 24 hours to invade the tick's saliva and then on to infecting you or your pet. Therefore removing a tick as soon as possible and using monthly prevention that kills ticks within 24 hours is your pet's best protection!

7.  Annual heartworm testing is important! Missing one monthly dose of heartworm prevention or giving it late will leave your dog unprotected! Heartworm medication is highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. Even if you give the heartworm pill as directed, your pet may spit it up without you realizing it. Annual testing is the only certainty you have to make sure your dog is heartworm free. We are seeing increased cases of heartworm infections due to the influx of dogs rescued from southern states. Be diligent and test annually!

8.  Cats can get heartworm disease too! Feline heartworm disease can be just as severe as the disease in canines. In cats, even one adult heartworm living in the heart or pulmonary artery (lungs) can cause sudden death. The immature stages, the heartworm larvae, can cause an intense inflammatory reaction in a cat's body which can result in coughing, difficulty breathing, collapse or death as well. Revolution is an easily applied and effective monthly prevention for your feline friend!

9.  Don't forget the intestinal parasites! We often associate intestinal worms with puppies and kittens. However, our adult pets are exposed to intestinal parasites on a regular basis. Wildlife (birds, deer, squirrels, etc.) carry parasites that are transmissible to your dog and cat through the environment, such as soil, grass and things your pet may chew on or eat. Grooming their feet after being outdoors is another potential opportunity for ingesting parasite eggs. Beaches and parks are also common places they may come in contact with them, typically from another dog. Regular deworming and annual fecal exams are recommended. Most monthly heartworm preventatives contain deworming medication. So keep up with the monthly preventatives!

     Keep your pet parasite free this year!