Parasites are living organisms that use another organism for survival. As a result, they cause harm to the host organism. Although there are numerous different parasites that can cause harm to your dog, there are three very common parasites that can be controlled through proper care: fleas, ticks, and heartworms.
Fleas are nuisance to you and your pet. In fact, an estimated $1.6 billion is spent each year through groomers in the United States in an attempt to treat flea problems, with an additional $4 billion spent on over the counter treatments, and $348 billion on professional flea control.
Once fleas infest your home or your pet, they are hard to get rid of. These tiny creatures are quite strong and capable of jumping great distances, making it difficult to capture and destroy them. In fact, they can pull up to 160,000 time their weight – which is the equivalent of a human pulling 24 million pounds!
In addition, they can jump over 150 times their size, which is the same as a human jumping 1,000 feet. The force fleas use to accomplish this is the same as 50 times the acceleration a space shuttle uses when lifting off. Amazingly, a flea is capable of jumping 30,000 times without stopping and, each time it jumps, it reverses its direction.
To get rid of fleas, it is important to break the life cycle. It is not enough to kill only the adult fleas. The eggs and larvae also need to be destroyed. Therefore, if you already have a flea infestation, you need to purchase a product that kills fleas at all stages of the cycle.
Prevention is also key to controlling fleas. There are many options available to pet owners, such as flea collars as well as oral medication. Flea collars, however, can be bothersome to a dog with sensitive skin and they do not necessarily help protect all of the dog’s body. In addition, they may not kill fleas that already exist.
Oral medications also do not kill fleas. They do, however, prevent female fleas from laying eggs that are healthy. This breaks the life cycle and ultimately kills off the fleas. To be effective, these medications need to be given twice per week.
Spot on treatments are another options. These products are put on the back of the dog’s neck and are spread naturally throughout the fur from the natural oils in the dog’s coat. Most of these products are effective for about one month.
Ticks are a type of arachnid that feeds off of an organism’s blood. They are responsible for transmitting numerous diseases to both humans and to dogs. Ticks are commonly found resting at the tip of tall grass. This way, it is easy for them to attach themselves to a passing animal. Unlike fleas, ticks do not jump. After a tick attaches itself to a host, it begins sucking its blood. When it is full, it will drop off on its own, but this can take several days.
Ticks are capable of anchoring themselves firmly to their host. If you attempt to pull one off of your pet, you need to do so carefully. Forcefully pulling out a tick can cause its mouthpiece to be left behind, which can cause infection, such as Lyme’s Disease.
There are several products on the market that can be used to kill ticks and to prevent them from attaching to your dog. Many of these are in combination with flea prevention, such as flea and tick spot-ons. You can also purchase flea and tick dog collars, though they are toxic if your pet eats them.
Heartworms are parasites that attack your dog’s heart. While one dog cannot pass heartworms on to another, the parasites can be transmitted from the bite of a mosquito. Therefore, a mosquito that bites one animal with heartworms can give heartworms to another animal.
Fortunately, heartworm medication is available to prevent your pet from getting them. At the same time, you need to be careful to follow the recommended dosing. Giving too much can be dangerous to your pet’s health.
Some dog breeds, such as Australian shepherds, shelties, and all types of collies, are particularly prone to illness if given too much heartworm medication. In addition, some dogs can be allergic to the chewable heartworm medication. For these pets, it is important to stick with heartworm pills that are meant to be swallowed.
It is important to provide your pet with year-round protection from heartworms. It is, however, ok to provide your pet with heartworm medication from just June to November if you live in a cold winter state. Be sure to contact your veterinarian first, however, before taking your pet off of any type of medication.
It is also important however, to ensure that while we vigilantly look out of possible signs of parasitic infection, it is also equally vital that we cover our pets in proper insurance to pay for either the prevention or the medication for our beloved pooches to keep them healthy and happy.
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