Fleas, ticks, and heartworms are all serious threats to any dog and all can be caught while a dog plays in its own backyard. All three parasites can cause serious illness in a dog and many diseases can even be spread to humans and other pets in the household. While getting rid of fleas and ticks is fairly easy, treating heartworm is notoriously difficult and can even be dangerous to a dog. The best way to manage heartworm, ticks, and fleas is through preventative products designed to stop the life cycle before the parasites reach adulthood.
Treatment for Fleas
While fleas may not be as big of a concern as ticks when it comes to blood-borne disease, fleas can still be a nightmare to deal with. Many dogs experience an allergic reaction to flea bites that causes intense itching and irritated skin that can lead to skin infections and hair loss. Dogs may even accidentally ingest fleas and become infected with tapeworms. Fleas are notoriously easy to catch and spread. Once a dog has fleas, they can spread throughout the home, biting not only dogs and cats but also humans. Fleas can transmit several illnesses to humans including plague and typhus.
The most effective method of flea control is a monthly flea and tick product. This can be applied as a topical liquid or worn as a flea collar. Treating a flea infestation is possible at home but a bit time-consuming. The process begins by killing adult fleas on the dog with a flea shampoo then applying flea treatment. An insect growth regulator can be used in the home to prevent viable flea eggs from hatching. The home and bedding, especially areas where the dog sleeps or relaxes, should be cleaned thoroughly to remove eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Treatment for Ticks
Ticks can spread several diseases to dogs including anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, hepatozoonosis, and Lyme disease. These diseases can be painful and lead to life-threatening complications without prompt treatment. Unfortunately, many canine tick-borne diseases produce vague symptoms that are difficult to recognize at first.
The best way to protect your dog from tick-borne disease is with a year-round flea and tick control product. Topical products are very effective but they must be used consistently as even a single missed dose can put a dog at risk.
Because these products are not absolutely effective, preventative measures should also be taken around the yard. The landscape around the home can be altered to make it less comfortable for ticks. Trees and shrubs should be kept pruned and the lawn should be kept mowed as ticks hide on long grass. Leaf debris should be removed from around the yard.
Treatment for Heartworm
Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal infection. By the time a dog shows symptoms, they may already have many worms infecting their blood vessels, lungs, and heart. Once a dog tests positive, they need to be stabilized and treated with a heartworm treatment regimen that eliminates adult heartworms over a period of months. Heartworm treatment is expensive and comes with some risk to the dog.
Veterinarians always emphasize heartworm prevention over treatment. While treatment can only eliminate adult heartworms, monthly heartworm preventatives can stop tiny larvae that infect a dog through the bite of an infected mosquito. Heartworm preventatives require a prescription from a vet after a test for heartworms. If a dog has an active adult heartworm infestation, they may have a severe and life-threatening reaction to the preventative medication.
Even though mosquitoes may be less active in the winter, most veterinarians recommend administering heartworm prevention year-round. This is because unpredictable seasonal temperatures in many regions introduce greater risk for heartworm transmission, even during the cold months.