What are Tapeworms?

tapewormTapeworms are flat intestinal worms that are made up of many small segments, each about ¼ – ½” (3-5 mm) long. Unlike roundworms that live freely in the intestinal tract, tapeworms attach to the wall of the small intestine using hook-like mouthparts.

Tapeworms belong to the cestode family of intestinal worms. The most common tapeworm of dogs and cats is Dipylidium caninum.
The adult worms may reach up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length. The
individual segments begin to develop starting behind the head and move down the tapeworm as they gradually mature, finally being shed at the opposite end, either singly or in short chains. These segments, called proglottids, are passed in the feces when an infected dog defecates. They are about 1/8″ (3 mm) long and look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds.
Occasionally they can be seen moving on the hairs around the anus or on the surface of freshly passed feces. As the tapeworm segment dries, it becomes a golden color and eventually breaks open, releasing the fertilized eggs into the environment.

Unlike roundworms, dogs cannot become infected by eating fertilized tapeworm eggs.

Tapeworms must first pass through an intermediate host (a flea) before they can infect a dog.

tapeworm infection 2 TapewormsHow do dogs get tapeworms?

When the infected eggs are released into the environment, they have
to be swallowed by immature flea larvae in the environment. Once inside
the larval flea, the tapeworm egg continues to develop as the flea
matures into an adult flea. During grooming or in response to a flea
bite, a dog can ingest the tapeworm infected flea and complete the life

Are tapeworms dangerous for my dog?

Tapeworms do not normally cause serious health problems in dogs. Occasionally dogs will drag their bottoms on the ground, a behavior known as scooting, in order to allay this irritation. Note that scooting can also occur for other reasons such as impacted anal sacs.


In puppies, heavy tapeworm infestation can be more serious. Lack of growth, anemia and intestinal blockages can occur. Occasionally, the head of the tapeworm or scolex detaches from the intestinal wall; the entire adult tapeworm will then be passed in the feces or vomited up.

How is a diagnosis made?

Clinical diagnosis is usually made by observing the white mobile tapeworm segments in the feces or crawling around the anus. They often look like grains of rice.

Tapeworm segments are only passed intermittently and therefore are often not diagnosed on routine fecal examination. If you find any segments, white or golden color, bring them to your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

With today’s drugs, treatment is simple and effective. The parasiticide may be given either in the form of tablets or by injection. It causes the parasite to dissolve in the intestines so you normally will not see tapeworms passed in the stool. These drugs are very safe and should not cause any side effects.


Is there anything else I should do?tapeworm infection Tapeworms

“Flea control is critical in the management and prevention of tapeworm infection.”

Flea control is critical in the management and prevention of tapeworm
infection. Flea control involves treating the dog and the environment
.Your veterinarian can recommend a safe and effective flea control for
your pet. If your dog lives in a flea-infested environment,
re-infection with tapeworms may occur in as little as two weeks. Since
tapeworm medication is so effective, recurrent tapeworm infections are
almost always due to re-infection from fleas and not failure of the

Can I get tapeworms from my dog?

You cannot get tapeworms directly from your dog. Dipylidium caninum,
the most common canine tapeworm, depends on the flea as the
intermediate host. A person must swallow an infected flea to become
infected. A few cases of tapeworm infection have been reported in
children. Vigorous flea control will also eliminate any risk of children
becoming infected.

Although Dipylidium species are the most common tapeworms in dogs, other cestodes are also important in certain areas.

Taenia species – These are tapeworms that are acquired by eating prey or waste containing the infective larval
stage. These are much larger tapeworms, often up to one yard (one meter) in length. Intermediate hosts include rodents, rabbits, hares and sheep. The intermediate stages develop hydatid cysts in various organs in the intermediate host. There are effective medications that will eliminate Taenia infections in dogs. If your dog eats prey such as rodents or rabbits, re-infection can occur with passage of tapeworm segments in 6-8 weeks.

Echinococcus species – These are very small tapeworms, consisting of only three or four segments, and are usually
less than 3/8″ (1 cm) in length. Intermediate hosts can be sheep, horses and occasionally man. In humans the disease is called
hydatidosis, hydatid disease, or hydatid cyst disease, and results in cysts being formed in the liver. The disease is very rare in the United States, but has been reported in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Humans are infected by eating contaminated meat or by accidentally ingesting eggs that have originated from the feces of dogs, coyotes or foxes harboring the adult tapeworm. Fortunately, de-worming preparations, particularly those containing praziquantel, are effective for eliminating this cestode from infected dogs.

Prevention of cestode tapeworm infection involves avoidance of uncooked or partially cooked meat or meat by-products.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.


hookworm teethHookworms are a very common intestinal parasite of dogs. They get their nickname from the hook-like mouth parts (teeth) that they use to anchor themselves to the wall of the intestinal tract.  Once they have attached, they feed on the blood of their host. Hookworms are very small and are difficult to see with the naked eye, but the damage and the amount of blood they consume can be massive. Large numbers of hookworms in young puppies can cause severe anemia from the blood loss and many puppies can die without a blood transfusion.

Dogs can get hookworms many different ways. Young puppies can be infected while still in their mother’s womb directly through the placenta as well as through the milk when nursing. Because of this early infection, puppies should be de-wormed when they are just 2 weeks old and repeated every 2 weeks for the first few months of their lives. Monthly de-worming is recommended as a regular prevention.



Adult dogs can become infected by walking through contaminated soil where active larvae hatched from eggs deposited in fecal matter can penetrate directly through the pads of their feet. Once the larvae enter the skin, they then migrate through the body until they reach the lungs, at which time they are coughed up and swallowed. While the hookworms are migrating through the body, many can encyst in the muscle and lay dormant for many years. These are the source of hookworms that infect puppies while in the womb. After the hookworms are swallowed, they reach the intestinal tract and latch on to the wall of the intestine and start feeding on blood. The adult worms also mate and lay thousands of eggs that are passed in the feces. The eggs hatch into
larvae in moist warm environments which start the life cycle again. 11. Ancylostoma adults Hookworms

Humans can also become infected if walking barefoot through contaminated areas, however, the hookworms cannot complete their life cycle, but do cause a localized dermatitis where they penetrate the skin and can cause other problems while trying to migrate through the body.
Some people can have allergic reactions to the migrating worms.

Dogs can also be infected by ingesting the larvae, either by cleaning their feet or fur, or when drinking water or licking contaminated surfaces.


Because of the prevalence of hookworms in dogs, many veterinarians and the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) recommend routine de-worming with anthelmintics. Several of the newer flea and heartworm preventatives also include ingredients to remove hookworms and other parasites as well. Your puppy should be tested for hookworms as soon as your get him and follow your veterinarians recommendations for maintenance. Breeders should have the mother dog and young puppies dewormed every 2 weeks. Anthelmintics do not affect the dormant hookworms in the muscle.  Studies have shown that these hookworms can release during gestation and infect the puppies for up to seven
consecutive litters.

Signs of hookworm infection can include pale gums, a dark ,tarry stool, diarrhea, weight loss and failure to thrive.  Older dogs can develop diarrhea or dark, tarry stools.

You can limit the amount of hookworms deposited in your yard by cleaning up the fecal material and disposing of it. Fecal waste from dogs should not be used in compost bins, but there are special compost bins to handle the waste.

Bobcats, Wolves, & Coyotes do live in Spring, Texas

We live so close to Houston in our nice suburban homes, that we sometimes forget that wild critters also share our backyard. This bobcat was found just yards from my driveway on the 23400 block of Cypresswood ( 1/2 mile west of Treaschwig) . Not only do we have confirmed bobcats, but I have also seen coyotes and wolves. Most of the time, these wild creatures will stay clear of mankind, but to be on the safe side, if you back up to the wooded sections of the neighborhood, you may want to keep your pets indoors and supervise small children when outside playing.

Learn more about bobcats on Wikipedia

Make sure your pet is also current on their Rabies Vaccinations and use a flea prevention all year round. The wild creatures and feral cats do drop flea eggs in your yard as they cross at night and this has proven to be a source of flea infestations to our household pets. The raccoons and rodents also spread Leptospirosis and deer ticks can give your pet Lyme disease, Rocky mountain spotted fever or Ehrlichiosis.

Avoiding House Fires Caused by your Pet

Everyone is familiar with many of the common causes of house fires…smoking in bed, unattended candles, or even kitchen mishaps.  But, are you aware of another leading cause of fires in the home?  This one has four legs, a tail and might be your best friend!

Like many dogs, Lucy had a passion for chocolate.  She doesn’t know it’s not good for her – the Labrador/Basset mix only knows that it tastes yummy and she will do anything to get some!  So, when owner Kay was at work one day, she had no idea that Lucy’s passion and energy would lead to a near disaster!

Kay left some chocolate cake up on the counter and Lucy was determined to make it her own.   In doing so, she ignited the burner on the stove.  The heat melted the plastic cover of the cake pan, filling the home with light smoke.

The US Fire Administration (usfa.dhs.gov) states more than 500,000 structural fires occur annually, taking more than 3,000 lives, including about 100 firefighters.  Top causes of home fires include open flames and accidents in the kitchen.  What’s even more interesting is that more than 900 fires each year can be attributed to pets!

Dogs and cats are very inquisitive creatures by nature and, like Lucy, will often persist in attempts to reach some sort of favored food item.  These two attributes can lead to problems when combined with unattended candles, or open heat sources, like kerosene lanterns.  Pets can easily knock these items over or ignite nearby material, causing a fire to spread.

All across North America, headlines show stories similar to Lucy’s.  From dogs locking owners out of the house while fish is frying to many displaced candles, our pets are implicated in fires more often than people realize.  Sadly, it is estimated that more than 500,000 pets are affected by fire each year and many of these will lose their lives.

Although a few pets wake the family and end up as heroes in these stories, many become fearful and try to hide.  Others are left home alone and no one is there to rescue them, despite shrieking smoke alarms.  For our cats, the excessive noise may even provoke a flight response to a hiding place where they feel safe and may not easily be found.

Thankfully, you can reduce the risk of a fire and injury or death of your pet by taking a few common sense precautions.

First, never leave any open flame unattended.  If you are leaving the house for any reason, extinguish all candles and turn off open flame space heaters and/or stoves.

Next, consider keeping your pet confined when you are gone.  A dog in a cage is unlikely to create a situation like Lucy’s near disaster.  Walk through your home with an eye towards “pet proofing” and preventing accidental fires.

Invest in a home monitoring system that can alert the fire department, even when you aren’t home.  Thankfully, in Lucy’s case, her owners had added monitoring protection to their alarm system.  Firefighters were dispatched and arrived at the home quickly, only to find the heavy smoke indicative of a large fire.  The captain of the engine called for two more fire trucks, fearing that the fire was beyond what his team could handle.

Upon entry to the home, Lucy was immediately rescued and the firefighters were able to extinguish the fire without the use of hoses.  The fire was contained to the kitchen because of the quick response of fire fighters, due in part to the monitoring system.

Experts at the National Volunteer Fire Council (nvfc.org) also recommend the use of window clings that can help alert rescuers to the presence of pets in the home.  Some people will even go as far as to place their pet’s cage within site of the front door to make rescue even easier.

Each year on July 15th, the American Kennel Club (akc.org) along with the National Volunteer Fire Council and ADT Security Services work to raise awareness to help prevent needless pet suffering from house fires.  Check with your veterinarian and/or local fire department to find out how to obtain the window clings or visit www.adt.com to get a free one.

Thankfully, in Lucy’s case, damage was minimal and Lucy is just fine.  But, many pets aren’t so lucky, suffering from smoke inhalation, burns or much worse.  Learn to keep your pets safe by following the above guidelines.  To see how Lucy fared during her ordeal, visit www.MyVNN.com to watch a video.

Watch for Weight Changes in Your Pet

It is not unusual for one of my clients to be utterly surprised when they discover that their dog or cat’s weight has topped the scale either up or down. Why didn’t they notice the change? It’s because it often happens slowly and gradually, day by day, right before their eyes.

A rise in weight may be as a result obvious. Just too many treats in but not adequate physical exercise. Although you may believe that you are practicing good portion control, over eating may easily occur. A cup of food to one person just isn’t adequate for the next. So they really offer a tad bit more. You merely give `a’ treat, while the next overly generous family member gives two or three. Additional calories add up very quickly. Are you aware that a one pound weight gain for a Chihuahua is just like a one hundred and twenty five pound woman gaining thirty one pounds?

There are also many fewer evident explanations for an expansion in your pet’s waist-line. Hormonal problems for instance an underactive thyroid,( hypothyroidism) or an overactive adrenal gland causing hyperadrenocorticisim,( Cushing’s disease), can impact metabolic rate. Neutering likewise has metabolic repercussions. Studies have revealed that when a pet undergoes a castration or an ovariohysterectomy (spay), the rate at which they expend energy is decreased by nearly a third A neutered pet still incurs much more beneficial effects than the unfavorable so I remain a solid proponent of these procedures.

Advancing age can also be responsible for your four-legged friend packing on the pounds. As we age many of us start to drop lean body mass. Muscle demands significant amounts of energy levels in order to work properly. Less muscle usually means less requirement for calories. Don’t be misled into feeding your pet the same quantity you did when it was younger and toted the same weight. Its energy needs have scaled downwards.

An increase in weight can create significant health threats to your pet. An pet might have breathing difficulties, a compromised immune system, be at elevated danger with regard to anesthesia, grapple with skin disorders, and experience with pain from overburdened joints or spinal disc disease. Research has demonstrated that fat pets age faster and have a reduced quality of life.

Weight reduction can be equally as significant. You might believe that your cat has discovered the fountain of youth. It is consuming more, running around like a kitten and is losing weight. Actually, your feline might be a victim of an overactive thyroid. If left without treatment ,, high blood pressure, sudden blindness and cardiac problems may manifest.

Problems such as diabetes mellitus, digestive problems, liver malfunction, cancer and even dental disease may cause a pet to suddenly lose weight and condition.

How could you tell if your furry friend is fit? While your pet is standing, you ought to notice an indentation after it’s ribcage. Position your hand on the side of its chest and with light pressure, you should be able to feel the ribcage. If you are pinching an inch, your pal is obese. In the event the ribs are very overly notable, your pet may be under weight. Which diet and just how much is correct for your pet’s phase of life? Your veterinarian is best proficient expert to help with making these kinds of determinations with your assistance. However requirements can change. Make a twice yearly wellness assessment for your pet. This very simple deed can improve the probabilities that your dog or cat will grow older successfully.

Flea Control

fleaFleas are pesky parasites and have adapted very well to living in our houses. In fact, houses are at the perfect temperature and humidity to become hatching factories for fleas. I no longer recommend flea control just in the spring and summer, but prefer to use flea control on pets all year round. It is better to prevent a flea infestation that try to eradicate one. One flea can hitch a ride on your pants leg from visiting a friends house, and if this flea is a female, chances are she already laden with thousands of eggs. Fortunately, fleas prefer to feast on the smaller critters rather than humans, because our pet’s body temperature is a few degrees higher than ours. But if the dog, cat or ferret are not present, then fleas will indeed bite a human.

To control fleas, you must have an understanding of the flea life cycle and the points in that life cycle where they are vulnerable to eradication. You also need to know what products that will kill the fleas and which ones are safe for your pets. Because some people may have more than one species of pets in the household, you do not want to use a product on a dog that may be potentially toxic to a cat or a ferret.

We will start with the life cycle of the flea.

  • A female flea begins to feed on her host as soon as she hops a ride. Her blood meal nourishes the eggs and egg production begins within 20 to 24 hours after her first feeding.
  • Female fleas can lay 20 to 50 eggs a day and 2000 in her lifetime.
  • The female flea consumes 15 times her weight in blood a day.
  • A flea bites your pet 400 times a day.
  • The “flea dirt” found on your pet is the flea feces made of your pet’s blood. You can tell it is flea dirt if you put a small amount on a white paper towel and apply a small amount of water. As the dirt dissolves it will turn the paper towel red.
  • The eggs are pearly white, oval and about 0.5 mm in length. flea eggs
  • The term “salt and pepper” refers to the flea eggs that are about the size of a grain of salt and the flea dirt that falls off of the pet. It is most notable on the bedding of the pet or where ever the pet lays.
  • The eggs are laid on the pet and roll off the pet into the environment.
  • Depending on the temperature and humidity, fleas can go from eggs to adults in as little as 13 days to as long as 8 months.
  • The flea eggs hatch into flea larvae which look similar to small maggots covered with tiny hairs.flea larvae
  • The flea larvae do not like light and will crawl through the carpet to seek darkness under the furniture, in cracks and crevices of cushions and in other out of the way areas.
  • This is one reason why traditional “flea bombs” are sometimes ineffective. The spray goes up and comes back down, and does not reach where the larvae are hiding and feeding.
  • Flea larvae feed on the adult flea blood feces dropped off your pet and other organic matter in your carpet.
  • The length of the larval stage of the flea is dependent on the temperature and humidity of the house.
  • The next stage of development is the pupae or cocoon.flea pupae
  • The larvae builds the cocoon and uses some of the debris in the environment such as carpet fibers into the shell of the cocoon.
  • The shell of the cocoon is now “glued” into the carpet and impossible to vacuum up.
  • The shell also provides protection from the elements and also insecticides.
  • Fleas will emerge from the cocoon when the temperature is around 24° (75.2° F) and a relative humidity of 78%.
  • The flea can remain in the cocoon for up to 30 weeks.
  • The flea will emerge from the cocoon when stimulated by:
  1. Mechanical pressure or vibrations- such as someone or a pet walking by.
  2. CO2 – Carbon dioxide from the pet or person breathing.
  3. Increased temperature.
  • Homeowners away for a vacation can sometimes experience the sudden hatch out of thousands of fleas that were in the cocoon state ready to emerge. The vibrations of the owners returning and the exhaled carbon dioxide coupled with the air conditioner turning back on will stimulate the fleas to emerge and start to bite anything that is near. This sudden hatch out can also occur in vacant houses that have just been moved into.

Now that you understand the life cycle of the flea, let us find the points that the flea can be killed.

  • The first point is on the pet. There are newer products available that are safe to use and will kill the flea with in the first 24 hours of the flea jumping on the pet. Why is this important? Remember that the flea does not start laying eggs until 20 to 24 hours after her first blood meal. If you can kill the female flea before she begins to lay eggs, you are a giant leap ahead of controlling your flea population.
  • Point number two. Intermittently applying flea control products will result in gaps in your flea control that will result in female fleas laying eggs that can hatch out a year later. I recommend that you use the flea preventative products once a month all year round. Consider the flea not as a seasonal critter, but an indoor monster waiting to hatch out of your carpet and suck your pet’s blood.
  • Point number three. The eggs and cocoons have a protective shell that make them resistant to the insecticides. The larvae and the adult fleas are the only stages that can be killed by insecticides.
  • Point number four. Insect growth regulators are effective to keep flea eggs from hatching, but are difficult to apply in the areas that the flea eggs are hiding.
  • Point number five – Frequent use of insecticides in your house and yard can build up and may cause toxicity to you and your family.For these reasons, I do not like insecticide foggers or bombs in the house. They do not get in the areas that hide the fleas and they contain insecticides that can build up in your house.

So, what products are safe to use on my pet?


– The advantage product by Bayer (Imidacloprid) is an excellent product for the control of fleas on dogs, cats and ferrets. (not officially labeled for use on ferret see post on http://www.allferret.com/1425/controling-fleas-on-ferrets/)

Advantage has unique crystals that are not harmful to mammals, but totally incapacitate the fleas. There is a 99% kill rate within 12 hours after applying the advantage. The obvious advantage is it kills the female flea before she begins to lay her eggs, thus breaking the life cycle. The other advantage is the imidacloprid crystals that are attached to the hairs of the pet fall off the animal into the environment, i.e. the carpet, etc. as the pet sheds hair. When the larvae emerge from the safe confines of their egg shell and come in contact with the crystals in the carpet, the result is another dead flea larvae within 2o minutes.

So by applying the advantage product to your pet once a month,  all year round, you are also effectively treating the environment as the fleas are hatching out.

Check out how it works at  http://advantage.petparents.com/



Advantage – multi contains the imidacloprid like the Advantage but also contains moxidectin. By adding moxidectin  advantage- multi  prevents heartworm disease, kills adult fleas and controls flea infestations, and treats and controls intestinal worms (hookworms and roundworms). Advantage-multi is applied once a month for both cats and dogs.  We have also used it to control ear mites and other mites. Advantage -multi is only available with a prescription but is well worth it for what it covers.



Revolution is the first-ever FDA-approved, topically applied medication for dogs and cats that kills adult fleas and prevents flea eggs from hatching out, treats and controls earmites, treats and controls sarcoptic mange, and also helps control the brown dog tick. Revolution contains selamectin and is topically applied. Revolution then enters the bloodstream through the skin. Concentrations of Revolution in the blood and tissues prevent heartworm disease and treats the intestinal parasites (hookworms and roundworms). Revolution selectively redistributes from the blood to the skin, where it provides protection against fleas, flea eggs, American dog tick, and mites. I recommend the Revolution be applied once a month to both dogs and cats all year round. Revolution is also only available with a prescription.


Vectra 3D

Vectra 3D for dogs contains 3 ingredients dinotefuran, pyriproxyfen, permethrin. Because cats are sensitive to permethrins, you cannot use the Vectra 3D dog product on cats. The combination of Vectra’s ingredients help to protect dogs from 4 species of ticks, 3 species of mosquitoes and all stages of fleas.

Dinotefuran is a quick-kill insecticide discovered by researchers at Mitsui Chemicals. A third generation neonicotinoid, dinotefuran was synthesized with acetycholine as the lead compound, making it different from other flea control products currently in use which are based on nicotine.

Over the last 10 years, fleas have developed tolerance to older products, making them less effective in protecting pets from infestation and infection.

In addition, dinotefuran does not bind to the same insect receptor sites in the nerve synapse as imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids. The binding is permanent causing continuous nerve stimulation and death of the insect. Ingestion is not necessary. Dinotefuran kills by contact.

In numerous studies and clinics across the U.S., Vectra® vectoricides – which are based on the compound dinotefuran – have killed fleas quickly and safely for a full 30 days between applications.

The permethrin helps repel mosquitoes and ticks is not adequate enough to totally protect from heartworms. If you are using Vectra 3D for fleas, you should also use a heartworm preventative to protect from heartworms and intestinal parasites. Vectra 3D is also applied topically once a month and should also be used year round.

Vectra for Cats

The Vectra for cats does not contain permethrin.

Vectra® for Cats & Kittens and Vectra for Cats® contains a unique dual-action formulation that’s proven highly effective against fleas:

  • Dinotefuran: quick-kill contact neonicotinoid that causes continuous nervous stimulation in insects resulting intremors and death.
  • Pyriproxyfen: potent IGR prevents development of all immature flea stages; stable in sunlight.

In numerous studies and clinics across the country, Vectra for Cats & Kittens and Vectra for Cats have provided fast, safe, long-lasting protection against fleas and flea-borne diseases.

  • Kills fleas within 6 hours.
  • Kills on contact; fleas do not have to bite to die.
  • Prevents development of all immature flea stages: eggs, larvae and pupae.
  • Protects against flea-borne diseases including tularemia, rickettsiosis, bartonellosis and tapeworm.
  • One application protects cats for 1 month.
  • Safe for kittens as young as 8 weeks of age.
  • Patented applicator makes administration fast, easy and accurate.

Vectra does not cover intestinal parasites, heartworms, or earmites.



Comfortis® is the first FDA-approved, chewable, beef-flavored tablet that kills fleas and prevents flea infestations on dogs for a full month.

Only Comfortis® offers you all of these benefits in a single product:

  • Fast, month-long flea protection
    • Starts killing fleas within 30 minutes
    • Lasts a full month
  • Kills fleas before they can lay eggs
  • The convenience of a chewable, beef-flavored tablet

COMFORTIS chewable tablets  contain (spinosad) . Spinosad is a member of the spinosyns class of insecticides, which are non-antibacterial tetracyclic macrolides. Because it is ingested, the flea must bite the dog to receive the deadly dose. Comfortis also does not treat the environment so you will continue to find fleas for several months until all the eggs, larvae and pupae have completed their life cycle.

Comfortis does not protect your pet from heartworms, intestinal parasites, ticks or mites and is only effective against the fleas. You must use other products in conjunction with Comfortis to protect from the other parasites.

Go to http://comfortis4dogs.com/ for more information


Capstar contains nitenpyran and is also given orally. It is effective at killing fleas in 30 minutes and the flea must bite the dog to get the lethal dose. Capstar is only effective for one day so I seldom use it especially when other products that last the full month are available. Capstar is only used to kill fleas and does not protect your pet from heatworms, intestinal parasites, mites or ticks.

A few words about OTC (over the counter) flea medications. It has been my experience that the OTC flea spot-ons sprays and flea collars are NOT effective flea control products and I do not recommend them.

As you can see, there is a variety of products available for flea control. Each one has it’s own merits and covers different parasites. If you seem at all confused, get with your veterinarian and discuss with him or her what products they recommend. Since I live in a mosquito, flea, tick, and intestinal parasite hot bed in Houston, TX, my preference has been Revolution because it covers almost everything and because it is absorbed through the skin, bathing does not remove the product. Also cats are now getting heartworms so I am also recommending the Revolution be applied to cats year round to help prevent heartworm disease. I also like the Revolution for the earmite and sarcoptic mange control as well as the intestinal parasite control.


Trifexis is the newest product to be introduced and it is a chewable tablet that controls fleas, prevents heatworms and protects against the intestinal parasites; roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.  Trifexis starts killing fleas in 30 minutes and keeps working to prevent flea infestations all month long. Because fleas, heatworms and intestinal parasites are major problems here in Houston, I routinely recommend for my client to use both the flea and heatworm medication every month all year long, in order to prevent flea infestations in the home and to prevent heartworm disease. Since the Trifexis is a chewable tablet, you don’t have to worry about it being washed off or leaving a dirty streak down the back of your dog.   I have even switched my own dog to this medication.

Information on Trifexis can be found at Trifexis.com






INDICATIONS: Bravecto kills adult fleas and is indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations (Ctenocephalides felis) and the treatment and control of tick infestations [Ixodes scapularis (black-legged tick), Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick), and Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick)] for 12 weeks in dogs and puppies 6 months of age and older, and weighing 4.4 pounds or greater.

Bravecto is also indicated for the treatment and control of Amblyomma americanum (lone star tick) infestations for 8 weeks in dogs and puppies 6 months of age and older, and weighing 4.4 pounds or greater.




Debra Garrison, DVM

Beat The Heat – Heat Stroke And Your Dog

Some dogs don’t know how to keep their cool and with hot summer days, dog heat stroke can happen quickly. Because dogs do not sweat, the only way they can cool themselves is by panting. Their core temperature cools when the moisture on their tongue evaporates. When a dog gets too hot, they cannot pant quickly enough to bring their body temperature down and heat stroke usually occurs. If a dog’s core temperature climbs over 106 degrees, death or organ damage can occur if something isn’t done quickly to bring his temperature back down to normal.

Outward Hound Cool-it Bandana - LARGE
Outward Hound Cool-it Bandana – LARGE

If you plan on taking your dog for a walk, be sure to provide him with water; and, if possible, tie a bandana that has been soaked in cool water around his neck to help him beat the heat.
Excessive drooling with thick saliva hanging from the mouth, panting hard and fast, and listlessness or the inability to stand or walk are all signs of heat stroke. It is important if heat stroke is suspected that you cool your dog down as quickly as possible. Get him inside, out of the heat and if possible give him a cool bath. A trip to your veterinarian may be necessary if your dog does not seem to respond to these steps.

Since preventing dog heat stroke is your best option, it is important for your dog to have plenty of shade with good ventilation. It is also very important that your dog have a lot of cool water available.

Heat stroke can affect any dog, but the brachy-cephalic dogs with short faces, such as Boston, Pugs, and Bulldogs may be at higher risk due their inability to effectively pant and cool themselves. Older dogs sometimes have more trouble with temperature regulation as well as young puppies.

Many people believe that their pet will be fine outdoors. However, inadequate shade and/or water can affect even the most seasoned outdoor dog. Water left outside in the sun can heat up to hot for them to drink. Outdoor water fountains for dogs can help provide fresh cool water and dog houses can help with the shade.
If you like to take your dog for a walk, but the concrete is too hot, or he is a small dog and walks just plain tire him out, you may try one of the dog strollers.

Surprisingly, heat stroke in cats is very rare.   Most animal experts believe that cats are extremely good at finding the coolest spots to lay and also avoid the excessive, exertions that many dogs seem to thrive on.

If you find your dog panting excessively on a warm summer day, immediately move your dog into a cooler place. Getting the pet into a shady area with a fan running on him or just bring him indoors. Rinse your dog with cool, not cold, tap water over his legs and body to help effectively lower the body temperature. Rubbing alcohol placed on the skin of the stomach, will help cool him also. Do not use ice or extremely cold water.  Although it seems logical, extreme cold will cause surface blood vessels to contract, forming an insulating area that traps heat in the body, delaying the cooling of the vital organs. At the veterinary hospital, fluids are administered intravenously to help cool the core temperature and keep the kidneys from shutting down.

Attempting to force your pet to drink is also not recommended. If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke, immediately load your pet carefully into a car and go to the veterinarian. Under no circumstances should you leave your pet alone in the vehicle.

Without these life saving steps, many dogs might lose their lives to the “dog-days” of summer. But, as Snickers will testify, quick thinking owners and veterinary professionals can help get them back on their feet in no time.

Cancer in Cats

Cancer is the leading cause of death in senior cats. As we already know, this is a very serious disease that can affect virtually all areas of your cats body. However, the spread of cancer is more rapid when certain areas of the body are reached, such as the lungs or liver. There are too many forms of cancer to discuss in this post; so instead, we will discuss various signs that you can be mind of and the veterinary options available.

There are many symptoms to watch for that might indicate your pet has developed a cancer. It is important to realize that many of these symptoms can be related to several other illnesses, so do not assume your cat has cancer until he has been officially diagnosed by a veterinarian. Unexplained weight loss, abdominal distention, respiratory distress, difficulty swallowing, changes in bowel consistency (diarrhea or constipation), blood or mucous in the stool, unusual bleeding or discharge, lameness, growths that can be felt through your pets skin and any areas of skin discoloration should be reported to your veterinarian. Remember that these symptoms are merely indicators that you should bring your cat to see the veterinarian.

Unfortunately, there are no blood tests to determine whether or not cancer is present in our cats. Therefore, acquiring a sample of the tumor through biopsy is often necessary and this sample is normally sent off to a specialized pathologist for microscopic examination. Many cancers can be cured if caught early enough and if the lump is small enough to surgically remove. Even after a lump is removed, your veterinarian may wish to send the sample to a pathologist to ensure that the margins of the growth are cancer free.

If your cat is diagnosed with cancer, many of the same treatment options available to humans are also available for pets. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for pets is offered at most veterinary specialty practices in major metropolitan areas. Your veterinarian will be able to share more information about these treatment options with you. It is important to understand that these therapies are costly and some forms of cancer are more easily treated than others. If chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are not an option, your cat can be treated symptomatically, and depending on how aggressive the cancer is, your cat may be able to live for several months to a year. Other medications and therapeutic options will be outlined by your veterinarian.

There are steps that can be taken to avoid cancers. Having your pet spayed or neutered will drastically decrease the chances of various reproductive cancers. Feeding your cat a high quality diet and keeping him at a healthy weight will also help to prevent certain cancers. Obesity is a major cause of many cancers in pets. It is impossible to prevent all cancers and genetics also play a role in this disease. If you have any additional questions about a specific cancer or are concerned about your cat, please do not hesitate to discuss this with your veterinarian.

Heartworms in Cats

heartworms in catsHeartworm Disease is a potentially life-threatening parasitic infection. Found worldwide, it mainly affects dogs and their wild relatives. However, it causes serious disease in some cats as well.

How Pets Get Heartworms
Heartworm Disease is caused by a worm, Dirofilaria immitis, and is spread by mosquitoes. When a mosquito feeds on an infected animal, usually a dog, it ingests microscopic larvae in the blood. These microfilariae mature in the mosquito for about two weeks. When the mosquito bites a susceptible animal the infectious larvae are injected into its tissues. They migrate through the animals body, maturing into adult worms over a period of months. The adult worms live in the heart and major blood vessels where they reproduce to create new microfilariae. The time from infection to appearance of microfilariae is about six months.

Cats seem to have a greater natural resistance against heartworms as compared to dogs. The prevalence of the disease in cats ranges from 0% to about 9% depending on geographic area. In the United States, heartworms are found in all 50 states but are most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and near the Mississippi River. When cats do get heartworms, they usually only develop one or a few adult worms. The worms rarely reproduce or produce microfilariae.

What the Disease Does
Adult worms cause inflammation of the blood vessels and the lungs, and can obstruct arteries. They can live in a cats body as long as two or three years, but may be killed sooner by the animals immune system. As worms die, they release antigens that can create life-threatening inflammatory reactions.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats are vague. They include coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and seizures. Some cats die suddenly without showing any other symptoms.

How Heartworm Disease is Diagnosed
Diagnosis of heartworms in cats is more difficult as compared with dogs. Blood tests for antibodies to heartworm are useful initially. However, the antibody test determines only whether the cat has been exposed. It will not differentiate between an infected cat and a cat that was exposed but fought off the infection. Therefore, antibody-positive cats should receive further testing. A blood test for the presence of the adult heartworm (antigen test) is often the second step. A positive antigen test confirms the presence of heartworms. However, the test can miss some infected cats, so other diagnostics may be needed too. These include physical examination, blood counts, microfilaria tests, x-rays, ultrasound, and angiography.

Treatment for Heartworm Disease
There are no medicines currently approved for treatment of feline heartworm disease in the United States. Cats with mild symptoms are monitored carefully and may be given anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids to minimize lung inflammation. A physical exam and x-rays are recommended twice a year. The goal is to support the cat until the worms have died and the inflammation has subsided. Cats with more serious symptoms are usually hospitalized and may require additional medications, such as bronchodilators, IV fluids, oxygen, and antibiotics.

Medications designed for killing adult heartworms in dogs are sometimes used to treat cats. This is considered an experimental use of these drugs and is undertaken with great caution, since the risk of fatal side effects is relatively high. Even more rarely, adult worms may be surgically extracted from a cats heart.

Preventing Heartworm Disease
Fortunately, effective preventive medications are available. They are given monthly and can be started as early as 4-6 weeks of age. Preventive medication is recommended for cats in areas where heartworms are common. Cats should be tested for heartworm before starting preventive treatment, and retested annually. Preventive is given seasonally in some parts of the U.S., but year-round in temperate areas. If a dose is missed, its best to give it as soon as possible and check with your veterinarian about the need for a heartworm test.

Visit the Heartworm Society for more information on cat heartworms

Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Chocolate poisoning

Like people, most pet dogs find chocolate highly palatable. Unfortunately, chocolate contains stimulants that are toxic in high doses. Small dogs are at highest risk, since a relatively small amount of chocolate may contain more stimulant than they can handle.

How Chocolate is Harmful
Chocolate contains theobromine, a powerful stimulant related to theophylline (a respiratory medication) and caffeine. Chocolate also contains caffeine, but in much smaller quantities. Dark, unsweetened, and bakers chocolate have the highest concentration of theobromine. Milk chocolate, white chocolate, and confections that contain small amount of cocoa (such as cakes, cookies, and chocolate-coated candies) also contain the stimulant in lower levels.

Theobromine stimulates the central nervous system and the heart, increases blood pressure, and causes digestive upset. Signs of chocolate toxicity include excitement, agitation, or nervousness, thirst, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe poisoning can result in loss of coordination, seizures, coma and death.

Diagnosis of Chocolate Poisoning
If you know that your dog has consumed chocolate, tell your veterinarian the quantity and the type of chocolate. The amount required to be toxic depends on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog. If your dog has consumed a dangerous amount, prompt treatment can reduce the likelihood of serious illness. Unfortunately, dogs sometimes get into chocolate and other poisons without their owners knowing. This can make accurate diagnosis much more difficult.


German Shepherd

If your pet can get to the veterinarian within 4-8 hours of eating the chocolate, it may be possible to prevent absorption of the toxin into the bloodstream. Emetics cause vomiting, which is removing the chocolate from the body when administered within four hours of exposure. A special absorbent medicine containing charcoal can be given up to eight hours after exposure. The charcoal binds to the chocolate in the intestine, preventing it from being absorbed and allowing it to be excreted in the feces. There is no specific antidote for theobromine, but animals that have already absorbed the toxin can benefit from IV fluids, heart medications, and anti-seizure drugs.

Preventing Chocolate Toxicity
Be sure to keep chocolate and all other potential poisons well out of reach of pets. Remember that unsweetened bakers chocolate is the most hazardous. Even though one or two M&Ms are not likely to be deadly, avoid the habit of feeding any amount of chocolate to your dog.

Dr. Debra Garrison

Dr. Debra Garrison