By giving your pet parasite preventives, you are protecting them from more than pesky mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Heartworm, flea, and tick medications guard your pet against deadly and debilitating diseases. To ensure your pet’s prevention protocol is as effective as possible, Chatham Animal Clinic has assembled a list of the top seven best practices for parasite prevention. 

#1: Annual testing is necessary to protect dogs and cats

All pets, including those receiving year-round preventives, should be tested annually for heartworm disease. Testing detects the presence of adult heartworms, as well as antibodies for the most prevalent tick-borne diseases—Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis. 

Although prevention products are nearly 100 percent effective against heartworm disease, breakthrough cases have occurred, because a resistant heartworm strain has emerged, making annual testing necessary for all pets.

#2: Understand what type of preventive your pet is receiving

With more and more products on the market,  knowing what to give your pet can be difficult. The Chatham Animal Clinic veterinarians will make specific recommendations based on your pet’s lifestyle and your preferences, but you must first familiarize yourself with the products and understand what you decide to give your pet. You should be able to answer the following questions easily:

  • Is it a flea, tick, heartworm, or combination product?
  • Will I need to give additional products for full protection?
  • Is the product specifically labeled for cats? Remember, dog products are not safe for cats.
  • Is the medication oral or topical?

#3: Give the preventive to your pet exactly as directed

Correct dosing and application is necessary to achieve full efficacy of any preventive. We will review the recommended product with you in the clinic, but take the time to read the product insert, or view the manufacturer’s website for full product information. While many oral and topical products look similar, their usage can vary widely, so ensure you know: 

  • Where to apply topical medication — Is it applied only to the neck, down the back, or in several specific areas?
  • The product duration Will this product protect your pet for 30 or 90 days? When will you need to re-dose?
  • Whether the product should be given with a meal — Some oral preventives are easiest on the stomach when given with a full meal.
  • Adverse reactions to watch for — Recommended products are proven safe for most pets, but you should be aware of possible side effects.
  • When your pet can get wet Topical products may wash off if you bathe your pet, or allow them to swim too soon after application.

#4: Cats need equal prevention attention

Feline heartworm disease has been underestimated and misunderstood for many years, but we now know that cats suffer the same tragic disease as their canine counterparts. Unfortunately, with no available treatment, heartworm disease is 100 percent fatal in affected cats, so preventives and annual testing are their only protection.  

Less is known about tick-borne diseases in cats, although if we have learned from history, we know that being proactive, rather than reactive, is best for our cats’ health.

#5: Preventives must be given to pets year-round

Parasite prevention is a 12-step process that requires consistent monthly coverage. Heartworm preventives work retroactively to rid your pet’s body of any circulating heartworm larvae that have accumulated over the past 30 days. One missed dose can allow heartworms to develop beyond their vulnerable stage where preventive products are not effective, allowing the worms to progress, and cause a damaging, deadly adult infection.

Parasitic disease has no off-season—mosquitoes can overwinter in basements or homes, or emerge along with ticks on mild winter days, ready to infect your pet. Remembering to resume preventives in the spring is more difficult than maintaining a year-round dosing schedule.

#6: Purchase your pet’s preventives only from reputable sources

Avoid accidentally ordering counterfeit and potentially dangerous medications by purchasing your pet’s prescriptions at our clinic, or through our convenient online pharmacy. Rebates and incentive programs that help reduce costs are frequently available.

Over-the-counter (OTC) flea and tick medications may seem convenient and affordable alternatives, but these products’ limited efficacy may lead to additional costs if your pet becomes infested. Additionally, OTC preparations may not treat all parasite life stages, and tend to cause more topical skin reactions than prescription products.

#7: Remember to consistently dose your pet to ensure complete efficacy

Studies estimate only 75 percent of purchased heartworm preventives are given to pets, leaving the door wide open to infection. Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and tick-borne diseases are increasing in prevalence each year. Ensuring the safety of all pets starts with a reliable reminder system, such as:

  • Wall calendars — The classic visual reminder
  • Phone reminders — Calendar apps simplify setting recurring reminders for an entire year with only a few taps
  • Medication apps — An app can help you organize and set specific alarms and push notifications for your pet’s daily medications

Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the love of your pet is priceless, the value of preventives must be incalculable. Now that you understand the importance of proper prevention product selection, dosing, and annual testing, you should have a new appreciation for the importance of your pet’s preventive care. Contact us at Chatham Animal Clinic to schedule your pet’s annual examination and heartworm test.