Beware of Flea and Tick Infestations

Webster’s Dictionary defines infest (infestation) as: to spread or swarm in or over in a troublesome manner, or, to live in or on as a parasite. Wow, all veterinarians can relate and have memories and stories that would entirely support Mr. Webster’s definition. One particular incident stands out in my mind: it happened several years ago about this time of year. A Boxer was presented to be…

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Tips To Protect Your Dog From Ticks

A tick is a small parasite related to spiders. They are most normally found in wooded areas and those fields of high grass and like mosquitoes and fleas pose a health hazard to your dog and to people as well as they carry the Lyme disease, Rocky mountain spotted fever and other illnesses that can affect your dogs health and even his life. While many people know that ticks can be detrimental to their dogs health they simply aren’t sure what to do to protect their dog from these parasites. Here are a few tips that may help you to protect your dogs from ticks and keep him healthy.

Since ticks are found in wooded areas and high grass and especially prevalent during the spring and summer it is a good idea to keep the grass in your yard mowed and short. Ticks are far less likely to inhabit areas where there is no tall grass.

You will also want to keep your yard free of spilled bird seed and other things which might attract mice and squirrels because ticks often use these animals as a host and food source.

Don’t allow your dog to roam. The best way to protect him from ticks is to limit his access to areas where there is not a high concentrations of these parasites.

If you take your dog camping with you check him/her every three hours for signs of ticks. Make sure you check him thoroughly including the inside of his ears and around the genital area. Ticks do not attach immediately to a new host and usually don’t start feeding until after they are on the host for about 4 hours. (It is also wise to thoroughly check all humans who are camping in wooded areas for ticks as well.)

If you find a tick use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the body as possible and pull the tick straight out. Never remove a tick with your bare hands. Ticks have teeth designed to latch onto a host and remain fixed and twisting and turning the tick may result in leaving the head with the disease carrying fluids attached.

Once the tick is removed then clean the area with soap and water and apply antiseptic.\

Using protectants such as Advantix and Frontline Plus and Vectra 3D may prevent ticks from using your dog as a host. Ask your Veterinarian about these and other products that may help to protect your dogs from ticks.

If your dog has had access to any area where ticks may live and suddenly appears lame, feverish and has a loss of appetite and appears lethargic then take him to your Veterinarian immediately for treatment. Be sure to tell your Vet of the places your dog has been so that he can be tested for tick spreading diseases.

Your dog is your trusted companion and your friend. You want to be able to share those outside adventures, picnics, hiking and camping trips with him but, you also want to keep him safe. Following these few tips will help protect your dog from ticks and the associated health problems they cause while still enabling him to enjoy all those out of door adventures.

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Heartworm Disease Continues to Plague our Pets

Every year, veterinarians brace for a disease that has plagued our pets for decades. Yet this disease is easily preventable with affordable and safe medications. Cases of  Heartworms in both dogs and cats continue to increase and the cost to treat (if detected early enough) is far greater that the cost to prevent. So, how can you protect your pet from the deadly consequences of this now common parasite?

Flash back to 150 years ago when a scientist first discovered the heartworm parasite in a dog. Then the parasite evolved and was then detected in our cats 80 years ago. With heartworm prevention available for both cats and dogs you would think that we would see a reduction in the number of cases, yet each year hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are diagnosed and often die too soon from this dreaded parasite. Some experts estimate that in North America alone, cases of heartworms in our pets may actually be in the millions.

The disease caused by this heartworm living inside your pet’s heart is devastating. Your pet can be infected by the single bite of  just one mosquito. The worm can then migrate through your pet’s body finally taking up residence in your pet’s heart chamber and the blood vessels leading to the lungs. This results in your pet’s heart having to pump harder to circulate the blood through his tiny body. The effects on the lungs is even more severe with some pet’s gasping for breath as the lungs fill with fluid and tiny blood clots. Early signs include coughing and exercise intolerance that some owners just attribute to the dog being lazy. Oftentimes, signs do not appear until the disease is well advanced and the dog is suffering from heart failure, fluid accumulation in the lungs and belly which can eventually lead to death.

In cats, it only takes one heartworm to cause damage. The early signs are asthma like symptoms and sometimes vomiting that the owners will attribute to hairballs. When that heartworm lodges in the lungs, it can result in a sudden death of the cat.

Treatment for heartworms is expensive ranging from $500 for the smaller dogs, to upwards of $1500 for the larger breeds. Complicated heartworm disease with cardiac failure is even more expensive and oftentimes there is only a 10% chance of recovery in the severely afflicted pets. As of yet, there is no treatment for cat heartworm disease, just supportive care.

Amazingly, veterinarians do have an answer to this problem. Safe, effective heartworm preventatives are available in a variety of easy to use applications. What is even more incredible is that the cost of a lifetime of prevention for most pets is significantly less that a single treatment for the disease. So, why do pets continue to suffer and die from such a preventable disease?

With all internet myths, two radical theories suggest that either the heartworm medications are failing or that the parasites are developing a resistance to the drugs. While conspiracy theorists love these ideas, scientific evidence for either theory is lacking. Heartworm preventives have a failure rate of less than 1 in 1 million doses. Likewise, the complex life cycle of the heartworm does not lend itself to developing a natural resistance to the medications. The truth probably lies in the memory of the owner to administer the dose in a timely fashion and the climate.

Increasing temperatures in our climate has resulted in a longer mosquito season and a larger potential for transmission to our pets. Here in Houston, our mosquito season is all year round. We are now seeing more mosquitoes in previously mosquito-free areas. Irrigation of dry areas and increased plantings of trees in certain areas can actually increase mosquito population. With a larger number of mosquitoes, there is a greater chance of transmission of heartworm disease.

Once all the facts are reviewed, the simplest reason for our failure to control this deadly parasite falls on the humans themselves. We simply do not give the preventive as we should. It may be due to forgetfulness, or perhaps one spouse thought the other one gave it or it may be due to the economy and the financial constraints imposed on the family. Whatever the reason may be, it can result in dire consequences for the health of our pets.

Thankfully, as pet owners, you do have powerful allies to help combat the war against heartworms. With the help of your veterinarian, you can pick the best heartworm medication for your pet and your budget. Oral medications, such as Heartgard, Sentinel, and Iverhart are available. There are also topical medications such as Advantage-Multi and Revolution that are formulated to also protect your pet from both heartworms and fleas. Proheart 6 is also available as a long lasting injection. The prevention of this disease rests solely on the pet’s owners to make sure the pet receives the prevention before the pet is exposed to the parasite. That means that the prevention must begin in puppy-hood and be given every month, all year long.

Do not waste time searching for “natural” or organic ways to prevent heartworms; they simply do not exist. Many people think they can formulate ivermectin to give to their pets, but improper dilution and storage can lead to overdosing or underdosing. Follow recommendations by your veterinarian and the American Heartworm Society ( Your pet is counting on you and prevention is far better and cheaper than the treatment.

Heartworms in Pets

With over 250,000 known cases across the United States, canine heartworm disease continues to plague our pets, causing emotional distress to the owners and financial worries to their pocketbooks. The saddest part of all: this disease is completely preventable.
We know what causes heartworm disease, we know how to treat it, and we even have safe, effective medications to prevent the disease. So, why are more than a quarter of a million dogs and cats still getting this terrible disease?

According to a survey recently released by the American Heartworm Society over 250,000 dogs and cats tested positive for heartworm infection nationwide in 2004. Since these cases only included dogs that routinely see the veterinarian, some estimates of the true incidence of heartworms in dogs range as high as 11 million canines infected with the parasite. Throw in coyotes and foxes and one can easily see the huge reservoir of potential cases.

Heartworms are a parasite that reside in the vessels leading from the heart to the lungs of many different mammals, but are primarily suited for life in a canine. The immature larva of the adult heartworms are taken in during feeding by mosquitoes and then spread from mosquito back to dogs after a short, 2 week maturation period in the mosquito’s stomach and salivary glands. After returning to their natural host, the heartworm larva migrate through the dog’s body over the next four to six months, growing in length until they reach the heart. Upon reaching the heart, the foot long parasite becomes sexually active, producing large numbers of larva, which, in turn, wait to be picked up by a feeding mosquito, continuing the disease cycle. Infected dogs might have as few as 5 or 6 adult worms or as many as 250!

Adult heartworms absorb nutrients from the blood stream of the dog. In an attempt to rid the body of the parasite, the dog’s immune system fights the invader, often causing collateral damage to the blood vessels and lungs. In severe cases, large numbers of heartworms can block the major vessels entering and leaving the right side of the heart, causing high blood pressure, bleeding into the lungs, kidney and liver problems, and even death. Treatment of the disease itself involves the use of an arsenic compound. Although deadly side effects with the medication have been extremely rare, many dogs succumb to blood clots in the lungs as the adult heartworms die. And the cost of treatment is also a concern. Appropriate diagnostics, medications, and re-testing of the heartworm positive dog might run as high as $500 to $1,000, depending on the size of the pet.

“Many people are just not aware of how deadly heartworms can be, especially to active pets.” says Dr. Tom Nelson, President of the American Heartworm Society. “Heartworms can live 5-7 years and the owner may not see of any of the symptoms. Many of our pets might be considered less active and these pets will not show the signs of heartworm disease until it becomes severe.”

Keeping your pet indoors will not insure that your pet will not get exposed. It only takes one mosquito getting into your house or one potty trip outside to be bitten by an infected mosquito. Even a few worms can cause severe damage to the heart, lungs and kidneys. Now even cats are presenting with heartworms and we are recommending both dogs and cats use a heartworm prevention all year round.

On a more positive note, veterinary medicine has a wide variety of options available to the pet owner for prevention of this disease. Easy to give monthly chewables are the most convenient way to prevent infection. The most commonly prescribed monthly chewable is called Heartgard. Administration of these preventives at the appropriate time intervals can virtually guarantee protection for your pet. In fact, manufacturers of heartworm preventive will stand behind their product and reimburse any medical treatments necessary should a dog develop heartworms while on their product.

Newer products, such as Revolution and Advantage-Multi, are applied on the skin and also help protect against fleas and internal parasites. New Trifexis is a chewable tablet that covers heartworms, fleas and intestinal parasites.

It is vitally important to test your dog prior to starting heartworm preventive or extreme allergic reactions could develop. Your veterinarian will draw a small amount of blood from your pet and, in many instances, you might know the test results prior to leaving the veterinarian’s office. Due to the extreme prevalence of this disease, the American Heartworm Society strongly encourages annual re-testing of all dogs.

According to Nelson, pet owners seem to be likely to switch products, with or without the knowledge of their veterinarian. This product and brand switching has the FDA concerned about a perceived lack of protection, or even potential product failure. “We need to make sure we catch this disease as early as possible, thus the strong recommendation for annual testing.” says Nelson.

Also to be considered is how society has changed in the last 20 years. As people and their pets move from the wetter regions of the Midwest and Southeast to the sunshine of southern California and Arizona, they often bring along these unwelcome parasites. Nelson says “If you have mosquitoes where you live, heartworms, even if they aren’t native to the area, will be there as well.”

Hurricane Katrina caused many heartworm positive dogs to move into all parts of the country thus accelerating the spread.

As spring time approaches, we all welcome the return of the bright sunshine, the longer days, and the blooming of nature. Just remember, the return of warmer days will mean the return of mosquitoes and the potential for heartworm disease spreading. Make sure your best friend protected! Call your veterinarian today and schedule a heartworm test. For more information, visit the American Heartworm Society at

Dr. Debra Garrison is a veterinarian at the Treaschwig Veterinary Clinic

Kitten Care


Recommendations for New kittens

3 weeks and 6 weeks

  • deworm
baby kitten

8 weeks

  • Physical Exam (PE)
  • 1st FVRCP-P (feline viral rhinotracheitis, Calici, Pneumonitis, Panleukopenia)
  • Parasite check
  • Deworm
  • Feline Leukemia test
  • Flea and Heartworm treatment (revolution)
  • Ear mite check

12 weeks

  • PE
  • 2nd FVRCP-P
  • 1st Feline leukemia
  • 1st FIV vaccine (only if kitten is going to be an outside kitten)
  • deworm
  • flea and heartworm treatment

16 weeks

  • PE
  • 3rd FVRCP-P
  • 2nd Feline leukemia
  • 2nd FIV
  • Rabies
  • Deworm
  • Flea and heartworm treatment

5 mos and older

  • Spay or neuter
  • declaw if staying indoors only
  • give flea and heartworm treatment once a month all year round
  • Feline Leukemia and FIV testing
  • CBC and Chem 6 to screen for kidney and other congenital disorders prior to surgery

check up


  • PE
  • Rabies
  • Feline Leukemia
  • FIV

Debra Garrison, DVM