Fleas, Ticks & Heartworm

Heartworms filling an infected canine heart.

Heartworms filling an
infected canine heart.

It’s that time of year again! The return of warm weather is a welcome change, but spring also brings fleas, ticks, and (especially for dogs) heartworm disease!  Before you get back out to the parks and lakes with your canine companion, and before outdoor cats starts exploring the neighbourhood, it’s important to make sure that they’re protected from infection so that you both have a safe and healthy season.

Fleas are usually are out in full force after only 3 days of warm weather, but when the winter weather is mild, we see dogs and cats with fleas all year long! Did you know that in a typical flea infection, only 5% of the fleas are on your dog or cat? The other 95% are in your home! Fortunately fleas are easier to prevent than they are to treat. Our flea preventives (usually included with heartworm medication for dogs) work with nearly flawless efficacy to prevent fleas from infecting your pet and infesting your home.

Ticks are becoming more prevalent each year as they gradually migrate further and further north. Many Toronto area parks (Trinity Bellwoods, Cherry Beach) are endemic for ticks and we frequently see ticks on dogs that have visited these areas, as well as High Park, Humber Bay Park, the Rouge Valley, cottage country, and the Kingston/1000 Islands area. We are also starting to see ticks on outdoor cats, since cats like to explore the grasses and shrubs where ticks can be found. Tick borne diseases such as Ehrlichia and Anaplasma can transmit within 3 hours of tick attachment, and Lyme disease can transmit within 24 hours of attachment. We have several preventative medications that can prevent tick attachment and the transmission of Lyme disease, and would be happy to talk with you about which option is best suited to your dog or outdoor cat. New this year for cats is Bravecto, which provides 3 months of protection from fleas and ticks with a single topical application.

Click here to quickly identify your dog’s tick-exposure risk this season.

Heartworm is a potentially fatal condition that all dogs are at risk for – not only those that go outside frequently. It is transmitted by mosquitoes which as we all know are not limited to the outdoors! The disease can be transmitted with a single bite from an infected mosquito, and the larvae develop within the skin and blood stream of an infected dog. Once mature, they grow to 10-15 cm long, live in the heart, and can cause severe illness as well as clinical signs of heart disease.

Fortunately, heartworm disease is easily preventable with appropriate medication. The safest and most effective preventive medication is Revolution, a small vial of liquid that is applied to the skin once monthly from June until November to prevent heartworm for the entire season. (For flea prevention, we recommend starting Revolution in April.) Revolution protects cats from heartworm disease as well, which is less common but can be even more deadly to our feline friends.

The important first step for dogs is to book an appointment to have a heartworm test done. This is a blood test that allows us to make sure your dog didn’t contract heartworm disease last year; it is important to confirm this before starting medication for the current year. At this appointment the doctor or veterinary technician will also talk with you about any other health issues that may have arisen for your dog in the past year, in particular dental health and weight. And if it wasn’t done the most recent annual exam, we’ll also talk about the importance of early detection screening. We simply get a little extra blood to evaluate for a wide range of health conditions, which can help us identify and treat emerging health issues early, before they progress. That way we can give you peace of mind that your four-legged friend is in peak condition for the summer. This testing is very important to have done annually, since dogs age the equivalent of seven human years each calendar year!

Next Steps for Dogs
Please click here to make an appointment for your dog to come in for their tick-borne disease and heartworm testing, and to get them set up with parasite protection for the coming season.

Next Steps for Cats
If your cat has not been in for a visit during the past 12 months, please click here to book an appointment for their annual wellness exam, or if we have seen them within the past year and you have no other health concerns to discuss with their veterinarian, please feel free to use our online prescription request form to request their flea and tick prevention medication.