Melissa Brookshire, DVM, runs North River Enterprises and provides consulting services on pet food and animal health companies while balancing her life as a mom of two active boys. A graduate of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Melissa owned and operated a multi-species veterinary hospital with her husband before starting her consulting business.
When you and your pet go to the vet, you may hear about parasites – fleas, ticks, heartworms and whipworms. You may wonder why your vet keeps talking about these pests. Your pet has never had a problem, right? Well, the reason is simple. Pets with parasites are not healthy and happy pets. Your veterinarian wants your pet to feel the best that it can. Some pests may cause immediate and obvious discomfort while others may cause illness that will develop over time and can lead to expensive and sometimes even dangerous treatment.
Did you know that flea allergies are the most common type of allergy in pets? Many pet owners claim, “But my pet doesn’t have fleas.” However, pets with flea allergies are SO itchy that they often lick and bite themselves excessively. In doing so, they swallow the fleas and flea dirt that are the evidence of the problem. Not only can the bite from a single flea make your pet miserable, but fleas also can transmit parasites like tapeworms and diseases like Haemobartonellosis (a blood disease).
What about ticks? There is a long list of infections that are transmitted by ticks to pets. These include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Tularemia. While I was in veterinary school, my Australian Shepherd “Bear” was infected with Ehrlichia and ran a high fever, would not eat or drink and was very weak. This blood parasite causes anemia, or a decrease in the number of red blood cells. Although treatable, this infection will cause serious symptoms until it is diagnosed and the proper medication is prescribed. In addition to the risk of disease transmission, a tick bite can leave a nasty sore on your pet’s skin. These sores can become infected and require treatment by your veterinarian.
Mosquitoes are pests that are worth mentioning although most of us know about the risks of a bite from these nuisances! West Nile Virus first appeared in the news several years ago. While this viral infection can be quite a problem for us, it is not usually a severe illness in dogs or cats. For dogs and cats, the most serious illness that can be transmitted by a mosquito is heartworm disease. Heartworms are transmitted from an infected pet to an unprotected pet through a bite. The larvae (baby heartworms) are injected into the pet during the bite. These larvae grow to adult worms that live inside the blood vessels around the heart. Unfortunately, pet owners may not be aware that their pet is ill until there are obvious symptoms of heart failure. Cats sometimes will die suddenly because of a heartworm infection. Treatment for heartworm infection is very expensive and there are serious side effects associated with the medicine that kills the worms.
Making sure that your yard and home are free from pests will help protect your pets, keeping them happy and healthy.